May 24, 2010

Leggett claims his bodyguards are needed because of racism

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says he needs his taxpayer-funded security team -- four bodyguards making $90,000 annually in salary and benefits -- since he still receives death threats, many of them "racially motivated." Leggett had been mum on the threats but told The Washington Examiner in an interview that the bodyguards are essential for his safety. "Oh yeah, I still get them," he said of the threats. "Things like, 'I'm going to kill you, Leggett'. You never know whether they mean it."

However, the county executive's office refused to disclose the nature, or even number, of threats made against Leggett. "We don't release that," said Patrick Lacefield, Leggett's spokesman. "We don't say details of threats. "We receive them with some frequency and some are fairly vicious."

Critics, including members of the police union, have scoffed at the setup, calling the security detail unnecessary and excessive in light of a $1 billion budget gap that will lead to a bevy of new taxes and slashed services next fiscal year. Montgomery County police also declined to provide the number of threats, but spokeswoman Lucille Baur said, "Investigations are ongoing right now."

She said no arrests have been made relating to threats against Leggett and added policedon't pursue anonymous letters or e-mails. Leggett said he initially wanted to dismiss the bodyguards but realized they were necessary after taking office. The security detail dates to the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks, before he was elected. He labeled the arrangement common practice throughout the Washington region. But Fairfax County, which mirrors Montgomery in wealth and crime rates, does not provide bodyguards for its government officials. The officers monitoring Leggett are part of the county's Security Services Division. Leggett said the bodyguards are used mainly when he travels for work -- "not 24/7" -- and said they are also responsible for building security. Council members didn't scrap the security funding during budget talks last week.

"I think it's still appropriate," said Democratic Councilman Phil Andrews, chairmanof the council's public safety committee.

"The most visible people in county government may need security detail. I accept that he gets threats." SOURCE: Washington Examiner

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