An Anne Arundel County police corporal told a judge Tuesday that County Executive John R. Leopold told him to watch a cash box at a political fundraiser, to plant campaign signs for him, and to compile a dossier on his 2010 challenger.
Cpl. Howard Brown, a former member of Leopold's taxpayer-funded executive protection detail, also described driving Leopold weekly to the parking lot of an Annapolis bowling alley to meet a county employee. After one such meeting, Brown said, Leopold emerged to describe having had a sexual encounter that he rated highly.
Brown said he told Leopold that using him to put up the campaign signs was a "bad idea." But Leopold told him to do it anyway, Brown said, and he did.
"You don't tell Mr. Leopold no," he testified. "I was fearful for what the retribution would be."
Leopold, 69, is battling misconduct charges for allegedly using the detail to run political and personal errands. He has denied wrongdoing.
The two-term county executive, a Republican, is accused of directing police officers to ferry him to sexual liaisons with a county employee, and to keep the woman from meeting his live-in girlfriend.
Leopold is also alleged to have directed officers to drive him around as he uprooted an opponent's campaign signs, to pick up and deposit campaign donations, and to compile dossiers on political adversaries.
Leopold's attorneys say the alleged actions did not rise to the level of crimes.
The case is being heard in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by retired Judge Dennis M. Sweeney. Leopold decided during jury selection last week to waive his right to a jury trial. His attorneys did not explain that choice.
Brown testified that he resisted putting up campaign signs for Leopold. "I told him I didn't think it was a good idea," Brown said. "I was afraid this might get into the media."
Brown said Leopold told him "not to worry about it." He said he reported his concerns to his supervisor, Maj. Ed Bergin, and then-Police Chief James Teare Sr., but ultimately put up the signs.
Brown said he also watched the cash box at the fundraiser at which Leopold announced his 2010 re-election campaign, and he compiled a dossier on Joanna Conti, Leopold's Democratic challenger.
He also said Leopold directed him to call at least two residents to relay Leopold's concerns that they were not displaying his campaign signs in their yards.
Brown said he donated twice to Leopold's campaign. Brown said no one asked him for the donations, but he believed that they might help improve his relationship with the executive.
When he started working with Leopold, he said, "it seemed as if the executive was constantly angry with me."
But after the first donation, he said, "it was a night-and-day difference."
"I felt as if I was being treated better," he said. "It was a more pleasant atmosphere to be in. I wasn't getting yelled at. He wasn't as abrasive with me."
He said he displayed a Leopold sign in his yard.
Brown also described what he said were weekly meetings between Leopold and a county employee. He said most of the meetings occurred in the parking lot of a bowling alley on Generals Highway near Bestgate Road — the location of Annapolis Bowl — but some occurred elsewhere.
Brown said he would drive Leopold to the meetings after lunch on Tuesdays. Brown said he would look inside the other cars parked in the lot to make sure that they were not occupied, and then position himself so that he could see anyone entering the lot.