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Leopold's name could be removed from iconic deli menu

At Chick and Ruth's Delly in Annapolis, where politicians' favorite meals are named for them and listed in large print signs above the counter, a diner can order a "John R. Leopold" — chicken noodle soup.

But that may not be for much longer.

A new menu at the downtown restaurant comes out toward the end of February, and officials who are out of office are also off the menu. Whether Leopold will be removed from his position as Anne Arundel County executive – he's currently suspended, having been found guilty Tuesday of misconduct in office – is unknown, and owner Teddy Levitt said he's thinking about what to do with the menu.

"If someone is out of office, then we look at it as retired," Levitt said "So for example, Congressman Bartlett, he is out of office, so his name on the sandwich is retired."

Roscoe Bartlett, a 20-year incumbent, lost his re-election bid last year. However, the veggieburger, with lettuce, tomato and provolone cheese on wheat toast, is "very popular," Levitt said.

Whether or not Leopold's name is there, the soup will remain on the menu, he said.

On the day after Leopold was found guilty of misconduct in office for using county employees to perform personal and political tasks, reactions at the restaurant and around the county ranged from disgust with his behavior to support for Leopold and disappointment with the verdict.

"If he's guilty, he's guilty," Teddy Levitt, owner of the restaurant a few minutes' walk from Arundel Center, the main county government building, said Wednesday. "You're not supposed to using the county's money for any of this." He said it appeared that Leopold "overstepped his bounds."

"It's a shame," Levitt said. "He's a nice guy, he's a friendly guy. He's done a lot of nice things for the county."

Michelle Cook was more direct.

"He looks like a jackass," the Pasadena woman said. "He abused his privileges. He thought he was above all of this stuff."

Les Anderson said the two-term county executive was wrong to put the police officers assigned to his protection in the "difficult situation" of putting up campaign signs, collecting contributions and compiling dossiers on political adversaries during his 2010 reelection campaign.

"He put the officers in a very compromising position, with their careers and family, and upholding the law," said Anderson, a former police officer in Prince George's County.

Leopold also directed officers and his scheduled to change the urinary catheter bag he used after back surgery in 2010.

"It's just not ethical," Anderson said. "You have very professional career-oriented people who want to do the right thing."

Leopold was found not guilty of misconduct for using officers to drive him around as he uprooted an opponent's campaign signs, and for using officers to drive him to sexual liaisons with a county employee in a bowling alley parking lot.

Leopold was suspended from office after his conviction Tuesday. The Anne Arundel County Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to introduce a measure to remove him permanently.

At the Double-T Diner in Pasadena, a Leopold hangout, Russell Jurmu said the Republican executive had been targeted by political opponents.

"Personally, I think there's a group of people from the beginning of his campaign eight years ago who have tried to get him out of office," the retired materials manager said. "They're not looking at the good he's done in office. They're just trying to get even."

Jurmu said he voted for Leopold in 2006 and again in 2010.

"If he did these things, then shame on him," he said. But he shouldn't be thrown out of office."

Jurmu's wife said she felt sorry for Leopold.

"It's sad," said Audrey Jurmu, a retired schoolteacher. "He should have known better. But he wasn't doing anything different from a lot of people in government."

But Bob Burnopp said Leopold should have held himself to a higher standard.

"None of us is perfect," the retired account executive said. "But elected officials are in the public trust. They should set an example."

John Wilkins recalled watching Leopold wave to passing motorists on Route 100 "like he was a man of the people."

"He turned out to be anything but," the Lake Shore man said.

Wilkins said he voted for Leopold twice.

"I wouldn't do it again," he said.

At the Panera Bread on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, few people seemed to know the full details of the trial, but everyone had an opinion.

"He deserved it. He seems to have abused his power," said Arvey Jones of Severn. "He had people doing things that were way outside the scope of their jobs."

"He had it coming. I just wonder what took them so long," added Linda Brown of Annapolis.

"I met the man. He came to my house and shook my hand when he was running for office. He seemed like a decent guy," said Gus McGlannan of Brooklyn Park. "I have no idea why he got into that stuff. Politics is terrible."

Baltimore Sun Reporter Jonathan Pitts contributed to this story.

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