Crying as she testified, a former scheduler for Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold told a judge Friday that she emptied her boss' urinary catheter bag several times during the workday and went along with planting signs for his 2010 re-election campaign because she feared for her job.
"It was my experience that you don't tell him no because then he considered you unloyal," said Patricia Medlin, a 15-year county employee. "People lost their jobs. I've seen it."
Medlin was among the first witnesses in the trial of the Republican county executive, who is accused of using county police officers and staff members to perform personal and political tasks for him.
Anne Arundel police Cpl. Joseph Pazulski, a member of Leopold's taxpayer-funded security detail, testified that he, too, planted campaign signs while on duty. He said Leopold, who was recovering from back surgery, told him it was OK as long the two were together.
Leopold, 69, is fighting four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. He has waived his right to a jury trial; his case will be decided by Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney.
Leopold is accused of using police officers assigned to his security detail to take him to a bowling alley parking lot for sexual liaisons with a county employee, and to keep the woman from meeting his live-in girlfriend. He is also alleged to have directed officers to drive him around as he pulled an opponent's campaign signs from the ground and to compile dossiers on political adversaries.
In opening statements Friday, the prosecution and the defense painted starkly contrasting portraits of the two-term county executive.
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt told Sweeney that Leopold used his office to intimidate employees into doing his bidding. He called Leopold's actions an "egregious waste of taxpayer dollars" and said the county executive knew he was breaking the law.
"It was knowing, it was willful, and it was intentional," he said.
But Leopold attorney Bruce Marcus described his client as a lifelong public servant, a frugal man who returned pay raises to the county. He said Leopold soldiered on despite crippling back pain and surgeries that left him dependent on the urinary catheter and using morphine for pain management.
Marcus said there are no rules, laws or regulations that prohibit the actions of which Leopold is accused. He said the "tabloid-like" allegations might reflect Leopold's "poor judgment" and "lack of social grace," but they did not rise to the level of a crime.
Marcus said Leopold didn't know that his police detail was earning overtime pay.
The cost of his security topped $250,000 in 2010, a $45,000 increase over 2009, according to information obtained by The Baltimore Sun under a Maryland Public Information Act request.
Overtime accounted for most of the increase. Leopold's "big mistake," Marcus said, was ordering an inquiry into the overtime amounts. It was then, Marcus said, that the officers joined together to get their recollections straight just in time to offer testimony against him.
Leopold might also have antagonized police with a bill to gut binding arbitration for law enforcement unions, Marcus said.
Also testifying Friday were former County Executive Janet S. Owens, who requested a police detail when she took office in 1998, former police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan, who created it, and police Lt. Katherine Goodwin, its first member.
Owens, who ran for re-election in 2002 and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for state comptroller in 2006, said she never asked members of her police detail to do campaign work.
She said she directed her police drivers to keep track of mileage as they took her to political events so her campaign could reimburse the county.
Goodwin said she drove Owens to campaign fundraisers in her role on the detail. But she said she never touched a campaign sign, picked up a political donation or compiled a dossier on a political adversary.
The police detail stopped accompanying Leopold regularly in early 2011. It was formally disbanded in August.
Pazulski is expected to return to the witness stand when the trial resumes Tuesday. More officers from the detail were expected to follow.
Leopold waived his right to a jury trial on Thursday. His attorneys declined to explain their reasoning, but the move often signals that complex legal questions will play an important role in the defense.
If convicted of the fraud charge, Leopold could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Judges have broad leeway on sentences for misconduct in office because the charge carries no specific penalty.
Leopold has remained in office while under indictment.