A gate and fence costing $650 in public funds was erected on the access road that leads to Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan's home in Landover as part of the Hogan administration's preparations for a strike by county employes this summer.
The gate has a lock and is flanked by fencing to prevent anyone other than Hogan or his guests from using Hillview Road, the gravel drive that is owned by the county but serves only the county executive's household, according to county officials.
According to records in the county purchasing department, Long Fence Co. was selected without bidding because of the emergency nature of the request to furnish and install the gate and fence after the county police department expressed concern for Hogan's security in the event of a strike.
Police chief Jack McHale said yesterday the decision to erect the fence at county expense was made as a result of a security survey of the Hogan property his department conducted last February in preparation for a possible strike by 1,500 public employes then. The strike was averted at that time when a court issued a three-month injunction.
The gate was installed in March, but it wasn't until summer, after the strike by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes again became an imminent posssibility -- and union members threatened to Picket Hogan's home -- that the county ordered the fencing installed. "Our officers said they did not feel [his property] was safe."
According to McHale, the police survey found "hunters in the area shooting guns and strange cars parked in the area" near Hogan's home, and that led to the department's initial security concerns.
Hogan, who has just returned from a trip to Europe on county business, was unavailable for comment yesterday. His press aide, Stephanie Bolick, defended the $650 expenditure as legitmate.
"Compared to the guardhouse that [D.C. Mayor] Marion Barry ordered and the 24-hour security that [former County Executive Winfield M.] Kelly had, this is peanuts," she said. "It wasn't even his idea to begin with."
The use of county taxpayer money for items touching on the personal life or property of public officials has been a politically sensitive issue in Prince George's and other local jurisdictions.
Marion Barry was harshly criticized when he had a guardhouse and three-television camera outdoor security system installed at his Washington home at a cost of $11,700 to city taxpayers.
Hogan himself made a major issue of the use of taxpayer money in his successful 1978 campaign against incumbent Democratic Executive Kelly. The Republican challenger accused Kelly of misusing funds by having the county pay for part of the cost of a plush Ford LTD and for assigning 24-hour police protection to himself.
Yesterday, Hogan found himself the subject of much the same charges. "I would say that's a misuse of taxpayer dollars," said County Council member Sue V. Mills, a Democrat, referring to the fencing. "We were dealing with human beings [the striking county workers] and that seems an expensive overreaction."
In addition to the security gate and fence, Hogan was given 24-hour police protection during the county workers' 11-day strike that began Aug. 12. The round-the-clock protection ended when the strike was called off by the union on Aug. 22.
According to Phillip Schwartz, an official in the public works department, which supervised the fence installation, the gate and fence will be taken down when Hogan leaves county office. "We'll take it down and if there's a need for it [elsewhere], we'll use it," he said.