Earlier versions of this article, including in the print edition of The Washington Post, misstated the allegations against three Prince George's County officers arrested in an ongoing federal investigation. Two are accused of taking money to protect a cigarette- and liquor-smuggling operation, and the third is accused of cocaine trafficking. The article incorrectly had said that they are accused of taking money to protect a gambling ring frequented by drug dealers; that allegation was made against other police officers in a separate federal investigation. This version has been corrected.
At inauguration, Baker sees chance to restore confidence in Prince George's
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 11:49 AM
The new Prince George's County executive, Rushern L. Baker III, moved swiftly Monday to take control of the $2.6 billion county government, firing or accepting resignations from at least a dozen top officials in the administration of Jack B. Johnson.
Shortly after being sworn in as the county's seventh executive, Baker (D) fired the police and fire chiefs, installed a new acting chief administrator and placed several temporary leaders at key departments, including housing, budget and finance.
The personnel move comes amid a federal corruption investigation that resulted in the arrest last month of Johnson (D) and his wife, Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchellville), who became a new County Council member Monday.
The departures of many of Johnson's top lieutenants capped a tense few weeks between the Baker transition team and Johnson's lame-duck administration. Baker supporters, including transition chairman and former county executive Wayne K. Curry, criticized Johnson for failing to solicit resignation letters from top officials.
Baker, who took the oath of office shortly before noon in a chilly outdoor ceremony on the promenade of the county government building in Upper Marlboro, promised during his inaugural speech that his administration would deliver an ethical, more efficient government.
"I'm going to start by working to restore confidence in our county government," Baker told the audience of about 1,000, which included Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) as well as D.C. Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). "We will . . . give you easier access to your government and better tools to control waste and catch fraud."
Baker, a former state delegate, leads a county under the cloud of a federal investigation that officials have said would result in further arrests.
The probe has snared three police officers, two of whom federal prosecutors accused of taking money to protect a cigarette- and liquor-smuggling operation, and a third accused of cocaine trafficking.
The police department has faced a number of other problems in recent years, including allegations of brutality and charges that an officer sold guns he seized from criminals.
Former Maryland governor Parris N. Glendening said Baker struck the right tone in his inaugural remarks. "His moral compass is set right," said Glendening (D), a former Prince George's County executive.
Johnson, who could not seek reelection because of term limits, sat silently while his wife and eight others were sworn in to the County Council. The Johnsons are charged with federal counts of evidence tampering and destruction of evidence and face 20-year sentences if convicted.
In a brief interview in front of her council office, Johnson said she was lawfully elected to serve her district's constituents. "The voters have spoken," said Johnson, who was elected 10 days before her arrest.