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Former Arundel employee during Leopold tenure accepts $110K to end lawsuit

A former Anne Arundel County government employee who claimed that then-County Executive John R. Leopold harassed her has settled a court case against the county for $110,000 plus attorneys' fees.

Karla Hamner accepted the county government's offer of judgment Friday and her attorney, John M. Singleton, notified the federal court Tuesday.

"Quite honestly, the outcome is a little bittersweet," said Hamner, who worked as a special assistant and spokeswoman for Leopold. "It is a huge victory for me and for women in similar circumstances. I would hope and pray this would give some courage to women who are enduring similar circumstances."

Hamner sued Leopold and the county in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in 2010, alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. The case was moved to federal court, where part of it was thrown out and the judge ruled that Leopold could not be held personally liable. Leopold denyed the charges at the time.

In her lawsuit, Hamner described a tense working environment in which the county executive berated her for her hairstyle and treated women poorly.

Hamner was eventually transferred from the county executive's office to a temporary job as a spokeswoman for the Police Department and was not offered the police job permanently, according to her lawsuit. She was let go in September 2008.

She initially sought $300,000 plus attorneys' fees.

The county's attorney, David Plymyer, said he believed the settlement was fair. County Executive Laura Neuman issued a statement saying she was glad the case had been resolved.

"This closes a sad and sordid chapter in our county's history," she said.

Hamner said the lawsuit was never about money; rather, she wanted to publicize treatment of women in county government. To move forward with a trial would have been like "ripping off a Band-Aid," she said.

Hamner said her firing and the lawsuit have turned her life upside down. She left Maryland and moved several times and is currently working in Nashville. She often uses her maiden name to avoid being connected with the case, she said.

"When people Google me and my name comes up, finally I will have some sort of redemption," she said.

Another federal lawsuit against the county from former Leopold employee Joan Harris is still active. Leopold was ruled not liable in that case. Harris is also represented by Singleton.

Leopold was convicted of criminal misconduct in January, for forcing employees to carry out personal tasks such as handling campaign signs and emptying his catheter bag. Leopold resigned from office and is appealing his conviction. Arguments in the Court of Special Appeals are expected in January.

Leopold said Tuesday he had no input into the current administration's decision to end the case with Hamner.



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