Was key to Arundel mess 'in the bag'?

The modern age of Maryland political corruption ranges from the early 1970s and the epic and repugnant crimes of Spiro T. Agnew in Baltimore County to the creepy and nutty (and pending) misconduct charges against John Leopold in Anne Arundel County.

Mr. Agnew was old-school greedy and arrogant; he took cash bribes as county executive, as Maryland governor and even as vice-president of the United States (in the Executive Office Building next to the White House). He was an extortion all-star, and good friend of Frank Sinatra.

Mr. Leopold, the Anne Arundel county executive, has not been accused of Agnew-quality greed. He hasn't even been charged with demanding quid for quo.

Instead, he finds his world collapsing for violation of a simple maxim of politics: "Evacua urinae peram tuam."

That is, "Empty your own urine bag."

Over the last four decades, numerous Maryland politicians, public servants and lobbyists have been convicted of bribery, carnal bribery, extortion, malfeasance, misappropriation of funds, mail fraud and tax evasion. Mr. Leopold's case marks the first time that a pol has been accused of using his executive staff to empty his catheter bag.

I'm convinced that Mr. Leopold and the Anne Arundel County Police Department would not know turmoil today but for this. We would not have heard the deputy police chief call his department "dysfunctional" if not for Lord Leopold's icky order.

I mean, this is, like, so gross — and it's what all of you have been thinking since last month's indictment.

After having back surgery in February and July of 2010 at Anne Arundel Medical Center, Mr. Leopold for several months had to use a urinary catheter.

From the indictment: "Upon discharge from the hospital, Leopold required (executive protection officers) to empty his urinary catheter bag as needed. When in the county executive's office, during the course of the regular business day, Leopold required the appointments coordinator to empty his urinary catheter bag as needed."

Certainly, citizens of Anne Arundel County — in fact, all of us — can understand how this might have been the thing that led to Mr. Leopold's problems. Your executive staff had better love you — really love you — if you are going to ask them to reach down to your ankle and detach your collection bag. And this is critical if you are also asking this staff to cover your indiscretions and protect you from gawkers and inquisitors. Without such love, all falls down.

So that is my theory about what happened: His staff didn't love him that much, and someone assigned to catheter duty finally snitched.

Members of Mr. Leopold's police detail are said to have done all sorts of inappropriate things for the county executive: creating dossiers on his political opponents; transporting him to a mall parking lot and keeping a lookout while he had sex with a county employee, and keeping his girlfriend from crossing paths with said employee while Mr. Leopold was hospitalized; attending a fundraiser and collecting checks from Mr. Leopold's political contributors; distributing campaign signs and driving Mr. Leopold around the county so he could remove those of his 2010 opponent. And all this at considerable cost, in overtime, to Anne Arundel taxpayers.

Mr. Leopold, for the record, denies wrongdoing, but he hasn't gotten into specifics about what he does and doesn't deny.

Members of Mr. Leopold's executive protection staff complained "on several occasions" to Chief James E. Teare Sr. about some of these activities, according to the indictment. But Chief Teare didn't do anything, and since the indictment he has refused to answer questions about what he knew and when.

He won't talk to the Anne Arundel County Council. The chief has lawyered up and clammed up, and he refuses to resign.

A lot of people, including the police department's rank and file, wonder what the man was thinking in 2010.

Perhaps the chief thought his officers should not have complained about being errand boys for Mr. Leopold. Maybe the chief just assumed this was all part of the job — picking up John Leopold's dry cleaning, delivering take-out dinners to his house in Pasadena, keeping his girlfriend and his other girlfriend from fighting as the poor man lay in a hospital bed.

Executive protection, after all, assumes discretion and confidentiality, following orders, being loyal. And if you're a cop, it beats working a beat, right?

Except for the part about being told to reach down and empty the boss' catheter. That part had real consequences, I think, and it looks like neither Mr. Leopold nor Chief Teare saw them coming.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. His email is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com. Special thanks to Elizabeth Archibald, a language instructor in the humanities department at the Peabody Institute for her assistance with the Latin.

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