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Johnson Hires Backers for New Senior Jobs

Prince George's County Council Seeks Audit of Staffing

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A01

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson has sharply increased the number of senior management jobs in county government over the past two years, creating 11 deputy director positions, and has filled many of them with friends and supporters at a cost of about $1 million.

Budget and personnel records show that since Johnson (D) took office in December 2002, the number of deputy directorships has grown from 20 to 31. Many of those hired contributed money, time or favors to Johnson.

Jack B. Johnson has created 11 deputy directorships in two years. (File Photo)

County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) said the council has asked for an across-the-board audit of staffing, particularly the deputy director positions. Dean said the Department of Personnel told him that seven deputy jobs had been created under Johnson. A review by The Washington Post found 11.

"I can't say whether there is a need for the deputies or not. We want to look at their roles and the responsibilities," said Dean, who along with other council members approved the annual budgets that funded the new jobs.

The deputy directors include:

• Pradeep Ganguly, a former economist for the state of Maryland, who donated $4,000 to Friends of Jack Johnson, the executive's political fundraising arm, in April 2003. Last year, he was named deputy director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources, which enforces property codes and issues building permits, at a salary of $92,500.

• Ronald Russell, a former council member who abandoned his own bid for county executive to support Johnson in 2002. Less than two weeks after taking office, Johnson gave Russell, the nephew of his campaign chairman, an $80,000 county contract to advise him on such issues as development, school construction and zoning. When the contract ended, he joined Ganguly at the Department of Environmental Resources as a deputy director last year, at a salary of $101,500.

• James Afueh, a Greenbelt accountant and grocer who helped organize the Multicultural Alliance, a coalition of African, Caribbean, Indian and Asian immigrants that supported Johnson's campaign. He became deputy director at the Department of Corrections, responsible for budget and personnel, at $82,000 annually.

• Keith Washington, a Prince George's County detective and one of the few police officers to campaign for Johnson, who was unpopular with law enforcement officials because of his prosecution of Prince George's police when he was state's attorney. In August, Washington was appointed deputy director of homeland security, at $73,000 a year.

• Kenneth R. Laureys, a campaign volunteer who was hired as a deputy director in the Department of Community Relations at $73,005.

Johnson said that he didn't know how many new deputy directors had been brought on and that staffing is left to department heads.

"I have people who deal with that," he said last week in a brief interview.

For example, when Police Chief Melvin C. High took over the force in May 2003, Johnson said he told him to bring in whomever he needed to revamp the troubled department.

High added a fourth deputy chief, William L. Tucker, former director of public safety at Georgetown University and a retired inspector with the D.C. police department, where High served from 1969 to 1993.

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