Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly said that Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson's foreign travels since he took office in 2002 have included trips to India and Tanzania.

Budget Woes Don't Ground Johnson

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By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Where in the world is Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson?

Apparently, on a county trade mission to Africa, along with his chief of staff and at least two other county staffers.

Where in Africa? Johnson's chief spokesman isn't saying, exactly. The executive was visiting Cameroon for sure, said spokesman James P. Keary, but he said the trip might involve stops in other countries.

Keary said he could not release a complete list of county workers who accompanied Johnson (D), nor say whether the county would foot the bill for the trip, as taxpayers have done for Johnson's past overseas missions. In his six years in office, Johnson has visited India, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

News of the international travel was met with outrage by leaders of the county's labor unions. The trip comes as the county is facing a budget crisis and 5,900 county workers have been required to take two weeks of unpaid leave to close a budget shortfall. Johnson has told lawmakers that he might need to lay off 400 to 600 employees next year.

"The citizens of the county need to be disgusted by this," said Vince Canales, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police. "Our biggest concern is the level of transparency within this county government and the fact that even county employees who want information can't get information."

Canales said it has been about three months since a coalition of unions filed a series of requests under Maryland's public information act for details of county spending, including Johnson's travel. The information has not been produced, he said.

"This is not being fiscally responsible," said Glenard S. Middleton Sr., executive director of the local AFSCME council.

Keary said Johnson would answer all questions about the trip when he returns.

And that will be . . . ?

"I have an idea," said Keary, indicating it would be late next week. "I don't know exactly what day."

According to a senior aide to Johnson, the trip has proven mysterious even at the highest echelons of county government. Top staffers were not aware that Johnson would be traveling abroad until his departure Monday, said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.


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