Benoit Says Council Will Continue to Pressure Teare
In a radio interview on WYPR, the council member from District 4 said the council still wants answers from the county police chief.
Anne Arundel County Council member Jamie Benoit (D-4) spoke on WYPR radio Friday about the recent turmoil involving County Executive John R. Leopold and Police Chief James R. Teare Sr.
On Monday night, the council gave a vote of "no confidence" to Teare, who has been questioned for his role in actions outlined in a recent indictment against Leopold.
The council has been particularly concerned about allegations that Leopold was collecting dossiers on opponents with the assistance of police.
Benoit, who spoke on the Midday with Dan Rodricks program, said the council will continue to seek answers from Teare, despite his recent refusal to answer most questions regarding the case.
Below is a transcript of Dan Rodricks' interview with Benoit.
Dan Rodricks: Has the council done all it can on this front?
Jamie Benoit: No, I think we'll continue to push on and continue to try and put some pressure on Chief Teare to be more transparent on his dealings surrounding the collection of dossiers in particular, which is a pretty serious charge. The people are outraged and fed up with this version of county leadership, and it's up to us to try to make some headway and shed some light on the behavior of senior leaders in the county.
Rodricks: It seems like Chief Teare has dug in his heels.
Benoit: He has. He has obtained a well-known criminal defense lawyer, which I found puzzling given that he hasn't been charged with any crime. But he's engaged a high-profile counsel, and he came down to the council a couple of weeks ago and refused to answer even basic questions about police practice and procedure on the advice of counsel. That's why we invited Emerson Davis to come down—actually, he volunteered to come down—and he provided answers to a lot of our questions that Chief Teare refused to answer.
Rodricks: How does Chief Teare serve in his job? Who appoints him?
Benoit: Under our current laws, the county executive has sole appointment power over the chief. I would anticipate that among some of the fallout of this would be proposals to be put before the voters this fall to change that process to give the legislative branch a role in hiring a police chief and the hiring of executive branch appointments.
Rodricks: What can you say about county services for folks out there in Anne Arundel County wondering what's going on?
Benoit: I'm approached, called and written to almost daily lately. And my response has been that I'm going to continue to focus on doing my share of providing the high quality of life that people have come to expect. But citizens are concerned, and they see a disabled county executive who's finding it difficult to put forth any meaningful policy issues and one of his senior appointed public safety officials has come under this cloud. In some ways, that's even more troubling, given what we ask of our police department and empower our police department to do. They have arrest powers, they are armed, obviously. They are peoples' protection out there, and when the leadership isn't doing its job, it certainly flows down to the rank and file.
It's safe to say that the rank and file are not happy. The morale … to say that it's low is an incredible understatement.
Rodricks: The chairman of your council said this was pure political grandstanding. What was your response when you heard him say that?
Benoit: Well, I don't agree with that. The resolution, while symbolic and there is no binding authority, does send a message to the public that we are paying attention to this and we echo the sentiments we've heard. I have not heard anybody come forth and say they support Chief Teare. Not many. I would say 99 percent or more have come forth to say 'we need him gone and we have no confidence in his continued ability to lead the police department.'
Rodricks: The council, as you know, was in a logjam to fill a vacancy for a long time. Have members of the council thought about a new approach to structure this so it doesn't happen again.
Benoit: I think that's also in the works. Right now, we're in the middle of our decennial charter review process. Our charter commission has submitted a report to us and among the recommendations is to change this process. Some sort of proposal will be put before the voters this year to make this process a little less political. It was a very acrimonious and protracted debate and I don't think any of us are anxious to go back through that. But having said that, from my perspective, the fight was worth it. The person we got, Peter Smith, is going to serve with great distinction and I'm really looking forward to watching him grow as an elected official.