The seven members of the Prince George's County police oversight panel have been paid $160,000 over the past three years though they have failed to issue required annual reports describing what they have been doing, records show.
Members of the Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel, an independent agency appointed by County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) to monitor allegations of police misconduct, are paid at a rate of $50 an hour to review cases.
The group hasn't released information about its activities since April 1996, but all seven members have filed for payment each month and some have received the maximum $10,000 per year allowed by county law, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post under the Maryland Freedom of Information Act.
Other records released to The Post show that the number of complaints about police misconduct have increased sharply so far this year, despite earlier claims that such complaints had decreased. During the first six months of 1999, 54 people filed complaints alleging police harassment, abusive language or excessive force, compared with 57 such complaints filed in all of 1998.
Panel members were paid a total of $159,946.50 between July 1, 1996, and June 30 of this year, according to county records. The panel usually meets once a week in closed session; at least four members are required to be present to discuss cases. County officials said they could not provide a breakdown on how many meetings each member attended.
The member who billed taxpayers the most was Alfred L. Barrett, a civic activist from Oxon Hill, who collected $29,562.50 during the three years. Barrett and the panel's chairman, Valerie J. Kaplan, of Laurel, have bumped up against the limit in recent years, records show.
For example, Barrett received $9,975 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, after receiving $10,000 the year before. Kaplan was paid $9,991.50 last year and a total of $25,954 over three years.
Some critics said they were disturbed to learn that panel members have continued to be paid despite their failure to issue any public reports of their work. County law requires the panel to publish annual reports detailing the number of misconduct complaints filed against the Prince George's Police Department and whether those complaints were properly investigated.
"It most certainly does not help their argument with citizens who are cynical about their performance," said Eugene W. Grant, a Seat Pleasant resident who sits on a separate police department advisory board.
Kaplan defended the panel's compensation. She estimated that, as chairman, she is paid for only about half the time she spends working on behalf of the panel.
"I know that I have done my job and the panel has done its job," she said. She declined to elaborate, saying, "The question is not germane and I don't want to respond to it any further."
Other panel members either didn't return telephone calls or declined to comment, citing a panel policy that authorizes only Kaplan to speak to reporters.
Records show that panel member Jervie S. Petty, a school principal from Fort Washington, received $24,925 between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1999. The Rev. Perry A. Smith III, pastor of First Baptist Church in North Brentwood, collected $22,112.50 during the same period; Camp Springs attorney Manuel R. Geraldo was paid $21,517.50 and Upper Marlboro resident Terry P. Goolsby received $20,750.
Dervey A. Lomax, a former College Park town council member, was paid $15,125 for two years worth of work, records show.