CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; firstname.lastname@example.org
BALTIMORE - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is taking action to further transparency and accountability regarding Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold's political dragnet, including filing additional public information requests on behalf of both prominent individuals and plaintiffs accusing Leopold of sex discrimination. The ACLU is also reiterating a request to the County Council for a full investigation and calling upon both Leopold and County Police Chief James Teare to come clean to the public about what was and was not done.
"The evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Leopold compelled police and county staff to conduct political opposition research on the taxpayers' dime, and that he might even have ordered police to improperly access a criminal history database to dig up dirt on his political rivals," said ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon. "Now, the time has come for the County Executive and Police Chief to come clean, by letting the public know the full story of what has occurred on their watch."
Today, the ACLU is sending additional Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests on behalf of past County Councilmember and Council candidate Thomas Redmond; past Green Party County Executive Candidate Mike Shay; County Councilman Jamie Benoit; School Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell; former Councilman Daryl Jones, County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell; County School Board Member Eugene Peterson; Anne Arundel County NAACP President Jacqueline Boone Allsup; Annapolis attorney Alan H. Legum; and community activist Lewis A. Bracy; as well as supplementing MPIA requests previously filed on behalf of the ACLU and Attorney General's Office Civil Rights Director Carl O. Snowden.
In addition, the ACLU seeks possible "dossiers" on women who have filed lawsuits against Leopold accusing him of sexual discrimination and wrongful termination: former employees Karla Hamner and Joan Harris, as well as their attorney John Singleton.
Finally, the ACLU believes that as an elected official in Anne Arundel County, John Leopold has an obligation to run an open government and to answer to citizens about what was and was not done, regardless of the criminal charges against him. Chief Teare likewise has an obligation to the citizens of Anne Arundel County and to the police officers who serve the community to account for what was and was not done on his watch. To the extent police were directed to improperly and possibly illegally collect information on Leopold political "enemies," he should explain how and why that happened, what was done about it, and what will be done to ensure it does not happen again.
In any case, the ACLU believes that the police department and county executive should not wait for MPIA requests by the victims of improper data collection, but should proactively contact all those individuals on whom files were compiled, and provide them with copies.
The ACLU remains concerned that the "enemies list" violates the 2009 Freedom of Association and Assembly Protection Act, passed in the wake of the Maryland State Police surveillance scandal. That law restricts police from conducting investigations into activities protected by the First Amendment, unless conducted for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.