Former County Executive John Leopold is applauded by the crowd at the ceremony marking the completion of the new public boat ramp at Ft. Smallwood Park in Pasadena this summer. Leopold is considering another run for public office.
Former County Executive John Leopold is applauded by the crowd at the ceremony marking the completion of the new public boat ramp at Ft. Smallwood Park in Pasadena this summer. Leopold is considering another run for public office. (By Joshua McKerrow / Staff)

Former County Executive John R. Leopold, who resigned in 2013 after a judge found him guilty of misconduct, might attempt a return to politics.

Leopold, 73, said he is considering a run for office in 2018 — though he hasn't yet decided which office.

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The Republican from Pasadena has launched an "exploratory" campaign website and is starting to knock on doors to gauge voter interest.

"I love public service; I still have a passion for it. I still enjoy helping people one-on-one," he said.

Leopold said he's most likely eyeing a local race, such as the County Council or a seat in the House of Delegates, and will make a final decision "toward the end of 2017."

"It's not a 100 percent certainty that I am (running), but I want to be prepared and do all the necessary work," he said.

Owen McEvoy, spokesman for County Executive Steve Schuh, said the county executive preferred to "(look) forward to the future."

"Mr. Leopold is entitled to run; however, it was a very sad and dark chapter for this county when he was in office," McEvoy said.

Leopold, who's spent most of his career in elected office — in Maryland and, before that, Hawaii — hasn't campaigned since his resignation, which came three days after he was convicted of ordering police officers in his protection detail to do campaign work for him. He was also found guilty of abusing his office, and in one instance made a county employee empty the urine from a catheter bag he used after having back surgery.

Retired Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeney sentenced him to 400 hours of community service, a $100,000 fine and two years of jail time, with all but 60 days suspended. Leopold spent 30 days in county jail and 30 days on house arrest.

Sweeney also banned Leopold from running for public office during the five years that followed his sentencing, but that punishment was overturned by a higher court in 2014.

Leopold — who apologized in court for asking his staff to run personal and political errands — said last week that the truth of the circumstances leading up to his conviction "have not been made known."

"If everything that had been written or said about me were accurate, there's no way in the world that I would run for office again," he said. "That behavior was contemptible and inexcusable, but it never happened."

A post on his website claims that he accepted "what I thought was compassionate assistance" from officers while dealing with "excruciating pain" from two spinal fusion surgeries. He offered to show his medical records to county residents.

"I deeply regret the impact of my misjudgments on the people of Anne Arundel Country (sic)," he wrote. "I have learned from my mistakes and know they will not reoccur."

Leopold also faced civil lawsuits over his actions while at the Arundel Center. A judge ruled in March that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Leopold violated a provision of the Maryland Public Information Act that guards against improper government collection of personal records by using police to collect information on individuals.

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Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and Washington, D.C.-based law firm Wiley Rein, who represented plaintiffs Carl Snowden and Marvenise Harris in court, said the decision set a precedent as the first time a Maryland court recognized the right of citizens to challenge such record collecting.

Snowden and Harris were awarded symbolic damages of $1 each.

If Leopold runs for council, it would be the first time a former executive has run for that office after serving in the county's top post.

He lives in District 3, which encompasses a portion of the northeast part of the county and is represented by Councilman Derek Fink, R-Pasadena. Fink is serving his second term and cannot run for a third according to the county charter, so the seat will be open in 2018.

Leopold could also decide to run for delegate in District 31B, currently represented by House Minority Leader Del. Nic Kipke and Del. Meagan Simonaire, both Republicans from Pasadena. He also could challenge state Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena. Leopold spent nearly 20 years as a delegate in District 31, serving from 1983 to 1990 and again from 1995 to 2006.

In each of those cases, Schuh, a resident of Gibson Island, would be Leopold's constituent if he is elected.

Former Councilman Jamie Benoit, a vocal opponent of Leopold during the investigation into his misconduct, said the former county executive would be a "formidable candidate" if he decides to run again.

"I don't know you could find someone who is a more pointed and outspoken critic than me," he said, "but one has to acknowledge he's a very strong campaigner and he did his court-obligated penalty ... if he wants to run and he's eligible, that's why we have voters and elections."

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