Prince George's council bars Leslie Johnson from committees
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 10:35 PM
A united Prince George's County Council took the rare step Tuesday of barring Leslie Johnson from sitting on any of the council's committees, where dozens of key decisions are made each legislative session.
However, as part of a deal struck during a closed-door session, Johnson (D-Mitchellville) will be allowed to attend committee meetings and vote on bills that come before the full nine-member body.
Council members said the county charter does not allow them to deny the newly elected Johnson all voting rights while she is under federal investigation, but they said the arrangement would ensure extra scrutiny over development proposals in her district and inoculate the council from any concerns that her tenure would cast doubt on their work.
This is "an abundance of caution," new council Chairman Ingrid Turner (D-Bowie) said at a news conference that Johnson did not attend.
Johnson, who represents mid-county District 6, was arrested 10 days after her Nov. 2 election along with her husband, then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), after they were overheard on a federal wiretap plotting to destroy a $100,000 check from a developer and hide $79,600 in Leslie Johnson's bra. Since then, five council members have asked Johnson to forgo the oath of office, but she refused. She was sworn in Monday, along with eight others, a new school board and new County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).
Johnson declined to comment, but she has said she was lawfully elected to serve her constituents. "The voters have spoken," she said Monday.
The council action on Tuesday received mixed reaction from county residents.
Al Weaver of Upper Marlboro, who lives in Johnson's district, said he was not impressed. He visited the council to express his dismay that Johnson would take office.
"I do not think she should take her seat," he said. "We are outraged. What do we tell our children?"
Wayne Clarke, a political consultant in Johnson's district, said he did not vote for her but was troubled by the council's move. "We don't have full representation. . . . People are innocent until proven guilty," he said.
State Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D), who represents Johnson's district, said cutting Johnson out of committee work harms her constituents.
"Many times the real work is done at that level," Braveboy said. "To not have a vote in that process diminishes the role and influence of District 6 in council business, and that impacts the residents of District 6."