Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has agreed to pay back his attorney fees in an ongoing civil suit filed against him by a former county employee.
Leopold's former public information officer Karla Hamner filed a civil suit against the executive in federal court, accusing him of official misconduct and gender discrimination.
Private attorneys for the county executive left a $20,000 bill for their first 60 hours of work on the case earlier this month, according to The Capital.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Leopold said he was "confident" that the case would end favorably for him. But if not, he has issued a letter to the county's Self Insurance Fund Committee that oversees payment for lawsuits against county employees and agreed to pay for the fees.
“I want the taxpayers to rest assured, however, knowing ahead of time that I would never allow them to pay my attorney fees if there is an unfavorable court ruling," Leopold said.
Leopold added that the government provides protection for its employees to guard against intimidation, but in this case he is willing to foot the bill.
Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit (D-4th District) of Crownsville called Leopold's actions "a step in the right direction."
"I think that's the right thing to do," Benoit said. "I've maintained all along that in these types of cases, taxpayers shouldn't be paying for the fees."
Benoit recently sponsored two pieces of legislation on the County Council that seek to reform how large settlements relating to county employees are managed.
Bill 75-11, passed on Oct. 1, gives the council the final say on settlements of $100,000 or more. A second piece of legislation, set to be decided in November, would empower the county attorney to pursue reimbursement.
In a separate case, Leopold was indicted by a grand jury in March for four counts of misconduct in office and one count of financial malfeasance. He is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 16, 2013.
In a poll conducted by Patch in September, 84 percent of readers voted that Leopold should pay for the attorney fees out of his own pocket.