CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; firstname.lastname@example.org
BALTIMORE - Determined to finally shine light on the full extent of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold's "enemies list," the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today filed a Maryland Public Information Act lawsuit charging that information was improperly collected and retained on Leopold's perceived political rivals, employees, and community members and then that information was improperly withheld when requested by individuals who had reason to believe they were targeted. The lawsuit, filed against Leopold as well as the County Executive's Office and the County Police Department, asks the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County to order that all responsive records be produced.
"The facts are clear that Anne Arundel County Executive Leopold ordered his executive detail and other county employees to try to dig up dirt on those he perceived as political rivals, as well as women who complained that he harassed or discriminated against them," said Deborah Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland. "Now, the time has come for Mr. Leopold and the County to come clean about how, why, and against whom these illegal activities were carried out. Full disclosure and accountability are important not just to achieve justice for the victims in this case, but also to send a strong message to other elected leaders that this illegal use of law enforcement for personal gain will not be tolerated."
In March 2012, the ACLU filed the first of several MPIA requests with the County Government and Police Department to learn the full scope and targets of the dossiers Leopold ordered his on-duty executive protection officers to create on persons he viewed as political challengers, as well as illegal searches conducted by police officers in County and State criminal history databases. State and federal law make it a criminal offense for the databases to be accessed without proper authority or without a legitimate law enforcement purpose. Therefore, the partial responses to the MPIA requests so far, and claims that further records that exist about the targets cannot be produced because of the ongoing criminal prosecution of Leopold, are not satisfactory.
The plaintiffs are the ACLU and 11 individuals: Jacqueline Allsup, Lewis Bracy, Karla Hamner, Joan Harris, Marvenise Harris, Eugene Peterson, Thomas Redmond, Eric Scott, John Singleton, Mike Shay, and Carl Snowden.
"Leopold has caused myself and many other people who have objected to his shameful actions to fear for their jobs and safety," said plaintiff Marvenise Harris, who filed a complaint against Leopold for sexually harassing her in the cafeteria line at her workplace in 2009; retired Deputy Police Chief Emerson Davis testified before the County Council that Chief James Teare showed him a dossier created on Harris after her complaint became public. "It is my hope that by coming forward and taking a stand, these illegal actions taken at Leopold's direction will never happen again."
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are Beth M. Kramer, Stuart H. Newberger, Clyde E. Findley, Michael P. Larmoyeux, Jessica Thompson, and Jesse J. Kirchner of Crowell & Moring LLP, who are working on the case pro bono, and ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon and Staff Attorney David Rocah.
PLAINTIFFS IN ACLU V. LEOPOLD
Jacqueline Allsup: President of the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP who fears Leopold may have targeted her due to her activism on civil rights issues.
Lewis A. Bracy: A former National Security Agency Law Enforcement Officer and community volunteer whose CJIS file was improperly accessed, on an Anne Arundel County Police Department computer, on October 30, 2008 by William H. Hyers, who has been a contract employee with Leopold's office since his retirement from the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
Karla R. Hamner, Joan M. Harris, and John M. Singleton: Hamner and Harris are former members of Leopold's staff who are currently suing Leopold for sex discrimination and retaliatory termination in unrelated federal actions and have reason to believe that a dossier may have been compiled on them. Singleton believes he may have been the subject of a dossier because he represents Hamner and Harris in their lawsuits against Leopold.
Marvenise V. Harris: A Maryland state employee who filed a complaint in May 2009 alleging that Leopold insulted and sexually harassed her in the cafeteria line at her workplace. Harris believes a dossier was ordered on her by Leopold, because retired Deputy Police Chief Emerson Davis testified before the County Council that shortly after Harris's complaint was made public, then-Chief James Teare showed him a file on Harris.
Eugene Peterson: A former member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education who fears he may have been targeted due past clashes with Leopold.
Thomas W. Redmond, Sr.: A former county councilman who had an illegal dossier compiled on him and whose CJIS file was improperly accessed on September 12, 2008 by Anne Arundel County Police Officer Timothy P. Phelan, a member of the Leopold's Executive Protection Unit.
Eric Lionel Martin Scott: An African American Sergeant in the County Police Department who has taken a leadership role in raising concerns about the need for increased diversity and discriminatory treatment suffered by minority officers in the department. Scott fears he may have been targeted by Leopold because of his activism.
Mike Shay: Former Green Party candidate for Anne Arundel County Executive who has reason to believe that a dossier or illegal searches may have been conducted.
Carl O. Snowden: A long-time civil rights activist who had an illegal dossier compiled on him and whose NCIC file was improperly accessed on July 28, 2009, by Anne Arundel County Police Detective Patrick A. Donohue.