Conti Criticizes Leopold For Using 3 County Cars

… TV report found one car parked at home of executive’s girlfriend …

By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

10:26 PM EDT, October 29, 2010

The Democrat running to unseat Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold criticized him Friday after a news report said that one of the three taxpayer-funded vehicles the executive uses was found parked at his girlfriend’s home in Pasadena this week.

“There is no excuse for Mr. Leopold to have three different vehicles … when our Police Department is underfunded and our county is in a financial crisis,” said Joanna L. Conti, who is challenging Leopold for the county’s top post.

“Our county executive should be serving as a model of frugality, not using multiple gas-guzzling vehicles and police officers to transport him around.”

In an interview, Leopold’s spokesman, Dave Abrams, said, “The county executive is very mindful of tax payer dollars and works very hard to save money where possible. He has a county-owned vehicle that he can use for business or personal use, as is the policy for any county employee who has a [county-issued] car. Because of his two spinal fusion surgeries, we had to transport him to events in the SUV because it was more comfortable, easier to get in and out of. His use of county vehichles is appropriate. It’s recommended by the Police Department for security reasons. It’s an important part of being able to do his job.”

County Police Chief Col. James Teare, Sr. said Leopold has been issued a vehicle from Central Services and another from the Police Department’s executive protection unit and has a third vehicle set aside as a spare. He said the arrangement is customary and “very appropriate.”

Leopold, a Republican who is running for re-election, faces Conti, a Democrat from Annapolis, and Green Party candidate Michael Shay in Tuesday’s election.

According to the report that aired on WBAL-TV 11, Leopold has three vehicles assigned to him — two sport utility vehicles and a black Chevrolet Impala. One SUV, on loan from the Police Department, serves as his primary vehicle, with the second SUV, on loan from the Fire Department, as a backup.

The news station aired footage of Leopold’s Impala, with county executive license plates, parked outside a Pasadena condominium Tuesday afternoon. Leopold’s spokesman confirmed the car was there, but he said Leopold uses it to run errands and does not allow his girlfriend to drive it, according to the report.

The Impala was the subject of scrutiny in January 2009 when a 911 caller reported suspected sexual activity in the back seat of the car, which was parked outside a Nordstrom department store in Annapolis. Leopold admitted to being in the back seat of the car, but county police said they found no wrongdoing. Leopold dismissed the claim as a “political circus.”

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

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