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Jack Johnson administration accused of not cooperating with transition

Jack B. Johnson, Prince George's County's executive, was arrested Nov. 12 as federal investigators executed search warrants at the County Administration Building. His wife, Leslie Johnson, was also arrested. Each was charged with evidence tempering and destroying evidence.

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By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2010; 8:19 PM

Top officials on the transition team of County Executive-elect Rushern L. Baker III (D) say the outgoing administration of beleaguered Jack B. Johnson has not been cooperative, even failing to help with customary procedures.

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Despite early discussions predating the Nov. 2 election, Wayne K. Curry, chairman of Baker's transition team, told The Washington Post that the Johnson administration has not delayed hiring, promotions, bonuses or nonessential contracts. Curry said that expected resignation letters from Johnson's political appointees have not been offered, as usually happens at the end of an administration.

"Many of the things that normally attend a transition have not been done," said Curry (D), a former county executive. "So far as I can ascertain from officials we have spoken with, they were never even given the instructions. So obviously they haven't responded to the instructions."

It hasn't helped that departing Johnson (D) and his wife, Leslie Johnson (D), newly elected to the County Council, were arrested two weeks ago on charges of evidence tampering and destruction of evidence. But even before the Johnsons were allegedly overheard on a wiretap plotting to get rid of a $100,000 check from a developer and hide $79,600 in Leslie Johnson's bra, several key procedures typical of changes in government apparently had not been put in place by the Johnson administration, said Curry and Baker's transition chief, Kenneth Johnson.

Jim Keary, Jack Johnson's spokesman, said he was surprised to hear of Curry's concerns. "I have not heard of any problems. If there were, I would think they would complain to us," said Keary, who added that Johnson budget chief Jonathan R. Seeman has met with the transition team and provided information, as have others in the Johnson administration.

Concerning the resignations, Keary said those that have been asked for have been submitted. "That's a personal thing," he said.

Seated with Kenneth Johnson at a conference table in the transition team's Largo office, Curry held up a thick briefing book that his administration prepared in 2002 for the incoming Jack Johnson administration.

"We summarized the activities of all agencies," said Curry, adding that his staff provided a fiscal snapshot and other details. "To date, that has not been done" by the Johnson administration, Curry said.

Curry said the Baker administration's best hope will be to dig deeply into the 6,000-person bureaucracy after Baker is sworn in Dec. 6 and take charge of the $2.6 billion government.

For now, the Baker transition team said it is gathering information the old-fashioned way - by talking to as many people as possible with insight into the government's inner workings.

Elected officials, business leaders and educators on the team are meeting with mid-level staffers, trying to piece together a sense of how the government is working.

Curry acknowledged that some people in the county's bureaucracy have been helpful, especially career professionals who he said are providing the transition team with an idea of what the Baker administration will inherit.


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