By Matthew Hay Brown and Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun
11:11 AM AKST, February 1, 2013
A judge has set a March date for the sentencing of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, as more Republicans said they were considering applying for his job.
Del. Steve Schuh added his name Thursday to the list of candidates looking to complete Leopold's term, and Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Jerry Walker said he would think about it after the council removes Leopold from office.
The council is expected to vote Monday for Leopold's ouster, to take effect when he is sentenced. Council members would then have 30 days to appoint a replacement.
Until then, Leopold, 69, remains suspended as county executive after his conviction Tuesday on two counts of misconduct in office.
Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who presided over the bench trial in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, found that Leopold had directed members of his police protection detail to dot the county with cherry-red Leopold signs during his 2010 re-election campaign, to collect campaign checks and to compile dossiers on his adversaries.
Sweeney also found that Leopold had directed police officers and his scheduler to empty the urinary catheter bag on which he relied after back surgery that year.
Sweeney set sentencing for March 14. That will give attorneys for the two-term Republican time to gather information on his decades of public service.
Under the county charter, the council must replace an ousted executive with an individual of the same party.
Republicans who had been considering runs in 2014, when Leopold's second term was due to end, now are thinking about applying for the job sooner.
County Council Vice Chairman John Grasso of Glen Burnie, one of Leopold's most vocal supporters, declared his candidacy within hours of the verdict Tuesday. Former U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino of Severna Park is considering applying. State Sen. Ed Reilly of Crofton said he would think about serving on an interim basis.
They were joined Thursday by Schuh, who said he would apply once the council began its search.
"I am as eager as all Anne Arundel County residents are to get this unfortunate episode behind us," said the Gibson Island businessman, a two-term member of the House of Delegates. "I would be willing to begin the process of righting the ship."
Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond, who is serving as acting county executive, said he would remain in the position for as long as the council would have him but would not run in 2014.
Alan Rzepkowski, chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee, described the field as strong.
"As a Republican," he said, "I'm looking for the County Council to select someone not as a place holder, but as someone who can run in two years and win two more elections."
Walker, of Gambrills, said he has thought about the job in the past and would again in the future — but not until after the council removes Leopold.
"I've been more focused on trying to get through this situation and making sure that the council's in the correct position to do what we're doing legally," the council chairman said.
The council has scheduled a public hearing and vote Monday on a bill to remove Leopold.
The measure was introduced less than 24 hours after the verdict. Leopold said the council would consider amending it Monday to reflect concerns raised by County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson.
Hodgson, a Leopold appointee, told council members they didn't have the authority to remove the executive until his conviction is entered into the court record. That won't happen until he is sentenced.
Walker said the bill could be rewritten to take effect on sentencing.
Once it passed, he said, the council would consider the candidates to replace Leopold.
These could include Walker himself.
"Once we get out the other side of this, that is something I would consider," he said. "But it would only be if I felt like there was a legitimate chance at the opportunity."
Under the charter, the council must vote on a replacement within 30 days of the county executive's removal from office. Should Grasso or Walker apply, there is no rule to prevent them from voting for themselves.