Jack Johnson's stamp on affordable-housing program in Prince George's

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 3, 2010; 10:53 PM

A longtime friend and former business partner of Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and a developer accused of shoddy construction work are among the builders who have received federal money to create affordable housing in Prince George's County in the past eight years.

The list of those who received funds from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program also includes nonprofit groups that have worked for years to help low-income residents find housing and a few organizations with limited experience in the field.

Johnson, who was arrested last month in a federal corruption probe, doled out $12.4 million to developers to create affordable housing in the county between December 2002 to September 2010, government documents show.

Federal and Prince George's officials have complained that the county's housing agency has mismanaged some of the program's funds.

Johnson was taken into custody after federal agents overheard him on a wiretap telling his wife, Leslie, to flush a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet and to stuff $79,600 in her underwear. The Johnsons were charged with evidence tampering and destroying evidence and could face up to 20 years in prison. The Johnsons have been released from custody for the time being.

Federal authorities said Johnson took cash and checks from a developer, identified in court documents as Developer A, as early as 2007, including a check for $100,000 to help the developer obtain funds from HOME.

It remains unclear who the developer is, which project received the money and when the money was received.

"It gives credence to what nonprofits have said for a while: that for-profit developers receive favorable attention in lieu of nonprofit developers," said Chad Williams, who runs Morphodo Communities, a venture that provides technical assistance to community-based housing development groups.

Friend and contributor

Mirza H.A. Baig - a friend and one-time business partner of Johnson's and a major campaign contributor - has received $1.2 million in affordable-housing funds, or 10 percent of all the money given out in the county during Johnson's time in office.

In 2005, Baig paid $610,000 under a no-bid contract for county-owned land where 11 houses were part of a low-income federally subsided development in Upper Marlboro. He doubled his investment in August when he sold the property for $1.2 million to Roots of Mankind Corp., a Temple Hills nonprofit agency that received federal housing funds from the county to acquire the land.

Baig, a doctor in Laurel, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

In 1992, Baig and Johnson bought land together in Laurel for $450,000, Johnson reported in a financial disclosure form that elected officials are required to file annually. About two years later, Johnson sold his interest for $1 million.

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company