Earlier versions of this article about the Prince George's County Council's decision to strip newly elected member Leslie Johnson of the privilege of shepherding development projects incorrectly said that Woodmore Towne Centre at Glenarden, where a Wegmans supermarket recently opened, is in District 6, which she represents. The development is in District 5, which is represented by Andrea C. Harrison. This version has been corrected.
Prince George's denies newly elected Johnson oversight of development in her district
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 8:29 PM
The Prince George's District Council has stripped newly elected member Leslie Johnson of a longstanding privilege that allows county lawmakers to shepherd development projects through the political process, prompting some residents to question whether they are being denied full representation.
"We want to have an abundance of caution and not have the appearance of impropriety," County Council Chairman Ingrid M. Turner (D-Bowie) said.
Council members use a practice called district courtesy to promote development in their communities. The District Council, which is the County Council when it hears zoning matters, gives deference to its members, allowing them to introduce a project and follow it through the process.
Johnson (D-Mitchellville), who was sworn in earlier this month, was arrested Nov. 12 after federal agents overheard her husband, then-county executive Jack B. Johnson, on a wiretap telling her to flush a $100,000 check from a developer down the toilet and stuff $79,600 in her bra.
They are charged with evidence tampering and destruction of evidence and face 20 years in prison if convicted.
The County Council has not fully specified how the new arrangement will work in Johnson's district, which has several major projects in the pipeline.
The arrests led to the council's recent vote calling for "the full council [to] take a more active role in development projects in District 6 and throughout all of Prince George's County," said Turner, who is serving her second term and was sworn in earlier this month along with the rest of the council. The vote was one of the first orders of business.
The action was part of a larger effort to ban Johnson from participating in key legislative duties, including barring her from sitting on any committees.
Johnson declined to comment, according to a spokesman for the council.
Some residents, even those who did not support Johnson during the campaign, argue that they have been disenfranchised.
"Who knows District 6 better than the person who lives here?" said Arthur Turner, a community activist who challenged Johnson in the primary. "The people did not vote for someone in Laurel or Clinton, so why should they make decisions on what happens here?
"We don't have an at-large council, and they have appointed themselves to sit as an at-large council, and that's wrong," he said. "The people I'm hearing from are upset. They are angry."