Pr. George's sheriff says he declined to review evidence in alleged embezzlement

Michael A. Jackson, a candidate for county executive, testified Friday in a case related to alleged union embezzlement.
Michael A. Jackson, a candidate for county executive, testified Friday in a case related to alleged union embezzlement. (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 14, 2010

Prince George's County Sheriff Michael A. Jackson testified Friday that a year before one of his top officials was charged with stealing more than $20,000 from her union, he rejected the union president's requests that he look at evidence of the alleged embezzlement.

Jackson, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for county executive, testified that in August 2009 he twice declined to review the findings of an audit brought to him by the union president because "that was union business." Jackson said he also did not refer the matter to his department's internal affairs unit.

"It was an audit, not a criminal investigation," he said during the pretrial hearing in a civil case, brought by the union president, in Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.

Jackson testified that a month later he promoted the alleged embezzler, Wendy Tyler, from lieutenant to acting captain in charge of the domestic violence unit. Jackson said he knew by then that she was being investigated for stealing union money, and he acknowledged that a search panel had rated Tyler as the sixth-best of eight candidates for the job.

"It's my choice," Jackson said Friday.

Robert A. Cease, president of the union that represents sheriff's deputies, later gave the audit to the state's attorney's office. State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh ended up taking the case.

A grand jury last month indicted Tyler and Capt. Nancy Ridgley -- who until recently was Jackson's campaign treasurer -- on charges of conspiring to steal $22,124 from the Prince George's County Deputy Sheriff's Association, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #112.

The indictment alleges that Tyler and Ridgely stole the money between September 2005 and October 2007, when Tyler was president and Ridgely was first vice president of the union. Both are suspended with pay.

In the lawsuit, Cease alleges that Jackson retaliated against him for accusing Tyler of embezzlement. Cease says Jackson reprimanded him in February for having told some people that Tyler allegedly used union funds for a surgical procedure.

At the end of Friday's hearing, Circuit Court Judge William M. Cave gave Cease and his attorney what they were seeking. He ordered Jackson to withdraw the reprimand and to not discipline Cease for speaking about union matters, said Timothy F. Maloney, Cease's attorney.

Cease testified Friday that he did not challenge the reprimand because he feared losing his job. To dispute the punishment, Cease testified, he would have faced a trial board chosen by Jackson, who would also have determined his punishment.

In an Aug. 2 deposition, Jackson was asked whether it was permissible for the lieutenant to steal union funds. "I have no opinion on that," said Jackson, himself a former deputies' union president.

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