- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

A former Anne Arundel County employee filed a formal complaint Thursday against County Executive John R. Leopold, saying that he verbally and physically harassed her for months while she worked as his spokeswoman.

According to the complaint, filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, Karla R. Hamner said that about three months into her employment Mr. Leopold started making jokes about her hair, specifically how it fell across her face and hid her eyes while she took notes.

Eventually the jokes turned confrontational, the complaint says. In one incident outlined, Miss Hamner said Mr. Leopold told her “to get my hair out of my face.” She said she complied, apologized and continued with her work. Mr. Leopold then violently grabbed her by her upper arms, turned her around and yelled, “I want you to look at me like this.”

Miss Hamner said in the complaint that she reported the incident to a supervisor, and that a little over a month later, she requested to be transferred to another department “where I would not be immediately subjected to County Executive Leopold’s verbal and physical confrontations.”

According to the complaint, she was given a temporary position at the county police department last May 29, after 10 months of working for Mr. Leopold. But on May 30, a high-ranking county administrator told her “I should not have gone outside the Administration to inquire about another position, and that I had handled the situation incorrectly.”

Miss Hamner in the complaint said that on Sept. 2 she was told she was not going to be hired at the position she had been filling at the county police department.

An attorney for Miss Hamner said that she would be seeking about $200,000 in back pay and other damages.

“Discrimination comes in many forms. It is terribly unfortunate that this young woman’s career has been derailed at the hands of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold,” said attorney John M. Singleton.

Miss Hamner came forward with her story last week, after reports of another formal complaint filed with state and local authorities against Mr. Leopold.

On May 8, a state employee and the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a sexual harassment complaint against Mr. Leopold. The complaint stemmed from an April 30 incident in which a state employee said Mr. Leopold solicited her for sex while they were in a cafeteria line at the Anne Arundel Center in Annapolis.

A spokesman for Mr. Leopold could not be reached for comment Thursday night, but Mr. Leopold last week issued a statement disputing the claims by both women.

“I am being asked to respond to a litany of outrageous claims that I have yet to see in writing. If I do see them, I will defend myself vigorously against those who are attempting to gain political points,” Mr. Leopold said, adding that the May 8 complaint had been dismissed.

Miss Hamner told The Washington Times this week that she decided to leave the office after she began to have nightmares over the incident, and worried another confrontation was imminent.

“It was terrifying. The yelling and the screaming. I’m still terrified to tell this story, and I live in Arkansas,” Miss Hamner said. “No elected official should ever be permitted to mistreat, harass, or abuse those who diligently serve the public.”

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