Arundel Executive John Leopold faulted on environmental record

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, gets a C-minus from local chapter of Maryland League of Conservation Voters. (Amy Davis / June 26, 2012)

The grades for the year are in,and Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has received a C- from an environmental group disillusioned with his handling of conservation issues.

The Anne Arundel chapter of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters faulted Leopold, whom it had previously endorsed, for not living up to promises it said he'd made about enforcing environmental laws and regulations - and for what it called his "utter failure" to push for county funding for controlling polluted storm-water runoff.

“In 2010 we endorsed the county executive based on his performance during his first term and the commitments he made to us about what he would do in a second term,” Robert Gallagher, co-chair of the county chapter, said in the group's press release about the rating. “Unfortunately John Leopold’s record has turned out to be just short of mediocre, and we are disappointed with his inability to keep his word.”

The group gave Leopold an 'F' for not pursuing or supporting legislation that would levy a fee on county property owners to pay for curbing storm-water pollution.  The General Assembly this year took the initiative, passing legislation requiring Baltimore city and the state's nine largest counties, including Anne Arundel, to adopt storm-water fees. 

The green group's souring on Leopold, a Republican, comes after he was indicted in March on corruption charges alleging he used his taxpayer-funded security detail to arrange sexual liaisons and to defeat political adversaries.  Leopold had earned praise from some environmentalists for his move to ban fly-ash disposal in the county after combustion waste from Constellation Energy's power plants contaminated homeowners' wells in the Gambrills area.

"We had hoped that the county chapter’s endorsement would encourage the County Executive to make protection of the environment a priority for his second term, but we have been disappointed. He has not offered a single environmental initiative and certainly has not espoused an environmental agenda,” Gallagher added.

The group did praise Leopold's administration for pursuing its first criminal case over an environmental violation recently.

UPDATE: Leopold spokesman Dave Abrams accused the conservation league of "selective amnesia."  Abrams said that in addition to praising the county for prosecuting shoreline development violations, the league had previously lauded Leopold for vetoing upzoning proposals in rural South County and for preserving more than 3,000 acres of land, among other things.

"The only thing County Executive Leopold refused to do was raise property taxes for stormwater projects, although he continues to support a fund to charge a fee on new impervious surfaces," his spokesman wrote in an email. 

The conservation league gave average or lower grades to most members of the County Council as well.  The highest marks went to the Annapolis area's Chris Trumbauer, the West and Rhode Riverkeeper, who got an A-, and to Broadneck Peninsula's Dick Ladd, with a B-minus.  The rest got Cs or Ds, though the league chapter noted that newcomer Peter Smith has not served long enough to be graded.  Smith replaced Daryl Jones on the council after Jones was removed from office upon his conviction for tax evasion failing to file personal and business tax returns over a six-year period.