Officials' Visa Bills Will Be Reviewed

By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Maryland State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh will investigate whether Prince George's County officials misused county-issued credit cards by charging thousands of dollars in personal expenses.

The review was requested by Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D), who received "more than a dozen" e-mails and telephone calls from taxpayers who said they were outraged after reading an article in The Washington Post last week detailing credit-card use by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), members of his administration and some county council members.

"Mr. Rohrbaugh agreed to look into any possible wrongdoing or misuse of county resources and essentially agreed that he would take a look . . . to see if there were any laws that were broken," said Ramon V. Korionoff, a spokesman for Ivey.

When reached at home last night, Rohrbaugh said only that he "did get a referral from Glenn Ivey's office."

Johnson did not return a telephone message left on his phone last night.

The newspaper's examination of credit-card use found that over the past four years, county officials charged items including clothing and prescription drugs on the county-issued Visa cards, a violation of county policy. Council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly), for example, charged a $37.99 shirt, a $21 haircut and four six-month gym memberships for himself and three members of his staff totaling $1,200. He said he gave his employees the memberships in lieu of bonuses. The county was not reimbursed for the charges, according to records.

Council Vice Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) billed the county for a $120.99 charge at a Jamaica resort after she said lost her personal card while there for a sorority sister's wedding. She said she repaid the county but could not provide proof.

She also charged the county for a $375 chauffeur-driven limousine while attending a conference in Northern California and $637 for a three-night "personal" stay at the Embassy Suites in Richmond.

Johnson's charges included $6,003 for a round-trip business-class plane ticket to Senegal for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for homes built by a Prince George's developer and $457 in rental car and gas expenses for two trips to Charleston, S.C., where his mother lived until her death last month.

The cardholder agreement, which the officials must sign when they get the cards, states that they are "exclusively for authorized and lawful county business."

Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie), the only council member who declined a county-issued credit card, said he had hoped the matter could be handled "internally" between the council and Johnson.

"I think they should be given an opportunity to police themselves before it goes to outside counsel," he said.

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