The roles played in the cable television debate by several past and present Prince George's politicians, such as former county executive Winfield Kelly, have heightened the controversy surrounding the issue.
Storer Broadcasting, through stock equities and/or retainers, has acquired the services of Kelly, former cable commission executive director John McAllister, former state delegate Andrew O. Mothershead and former New Carrollton City Council member Jerome Byrnes.
State Del. Frank J. Komenda (D-27th Dist.), who said he plans a few sales presentations to municipalities in the near furture, heads the county office of the rival Cross-Country Cable. Komenda said he has spent the past few months "doing surveys of municipalitiees, actually driving down every street, to make an on-site survey so we could tailor our proposals based on specific needs of a locality."
Prince George's citizens own stock in the local subsidiaries of both companies -- 15 percent of the stock in the case of Storer and 10 percent in the case of Cross-Country.
Some have criticized Kelly for his involvement.
"I think it's awfully strange that Winfield Kelly, the man who signed the 1976 ordinance seeking to create a countywide cable system, would run around now trying to undermine that system," said Lawrence Hogan Jr., a close aide and the son of the present county executive.
"Some of the Kelly people obviously dropped the ball and dragged their feet (during Kelly's term in office). This administration has made as much progress in the time that it's been in office as the Kelly administration made in two years," he said.
"Nobody's going to benefit if the municipalities go it alone -- not the municipalities, not the county and not the citizens," he added. Only a tiny handful of people like Kelly are going to benefit."
Kelly countered, "There is no effort on my part or that of Storer to undermine the countywide system. I think from the time the legislation went into effect until now, there has been an understanding that there was a chance there would be more than one operation in the county.
"By the time we got a commission and an executive director named, it was time for us to leave office," he continued. "There were people pressuring me then to move faster, but there were so many other big items on the agenda."
Kelly's associate, John McAllister, when questioned about the relationship between his previous county job as head of the cable TV commission and his present job with Storer, has said in the past that he held the county post "a short period of time, a few months, and there wasn't much activity other than trying to get organized and get an office set up."
Kelly's policy of offering municipal bodies $500 to cover administrative costs of studying his proposal and an additional $1,000 to each municipality that grants a franchise, also has raised some eyebrows. Most municipal leaders claim they either refused to accept the payments or are holding the money until they can get leagl advice.
In fact, the county cable TV legislation requires similar, but much higher, payments from cable companies seeking franchises in Prince George's. The county ordinance now specifies that a cable firm must pay a $2,000 fee to cover costs of studying its proposal and an additional $20,000 fee when a franchise is granted. Proposed changes in the legislation, expected to come before the County Council in the next few weeks, would change those fees to $10,000 and $40,000 respectively.
Kelly also has offered an additional $1,000 to cover administrative costs of municipalities that grant franchises to his company.