Prince George's County executive seeks Assembly approval of ethics bills

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.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 8:33 PM

Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is asking the Maryland General Assembly to approve two ethics measures to limit the ability of local lawmakers to seek campaign contributions from developers.

The proposals come as former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife, newly installed County Council member Leslie Johnson (D), face federal charges of destruction of evidence and evidence tampering in a corruption probe. The Johnsons were arrested Nov. 12 after being overheard on a federal wiretap allegedly discussing ways to destroy a $100,000 check from a developer and hide $79,600 in cash in Leslie Johnson's bra.

One of Baker's measures would restrict County Council members' ability to accept campaign contributions from developers while they are considering legislation that would directly affect developers. A second bill would limit members' ability to inject their views into pending development proposals unless a developer or a resident has asked for council intervention.

The measures would close a loophole that allows council members to vote on cases in which they have received contributions through a slate, an indirect way of receiving funds that otherwise are barred by law. Even though the county executive does not play a direct role in zoning matters, Baker's proposal also seeks to restrict the county executive's ability to collect campaign funds from a developer while an application is pending. A bill plugging the slate loophole also has been proposed by state Dels. Dereck E. Davis and Justin D. Ross, Prince George's Democrats.

"These bills represent a balanced approach to address past bad practices," Baker said in a statement issued Saturday.

A day earlier, Baker named three members to his integrity panel, which will hold its first public meeting Wednesday at Prince George's Community College in Largo.

The Accountability, Compliance and Integrity Advisory Board, chaired by former Baltimore mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, will examine current county practices for overseeing ethics in government and research others. One of the panel's key tasks will be to determine if the county needs an independent inspector general's office, which Baker said during his campaign he wanted to create.

Baker named three members to the panel: Patricia G. Adams of Annapolis, an attorney and member of the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission; Linda Botts, owner of ASHLIN, a Greenbelt-based management company; and former county council chairman Peter Shapiro (D) of Hyattsville, founder and director of the Chesapeake Center for Public Leadership. Retired Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge William D. Missouri is vice chairman.

The 9 a.m. meeting Wednesday will be held at the community college's Largo Student Center, Community Room B on the second floor.

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