Council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton) once said that he was always ready for a free meal.
By the looks of his annual financial disclosure form filed this month with the county Board of Ethics, he apparently is also eager for a free round of golf and a free professional or college basketball, hockey or baseball game.
Last year, Hendershot recorded $3,345 in lunches, dinners, golf, basketball and baseball games from people doing business with the county.
"People invite me to play golf or go to a ballgame and I go," Hendershot said. "What can I say? I like to play golf and I like ballgames."
The gifts range from a $30 lunch with Steve Proctor, a lobbyist for the County Council, to three sporting events, each worth $250: golf at Queenstown Harbor in Ocean City (courtesy of the Crescent City Jaycees, golf at Potomac Ridge (courtesy of developer and real estate broker Pat Ricker for the Greenbelt Metro Park) and a Washington Redskins game (courtesy of HumanVision, a company headed by Gary Murray.
Hendershot took in the most from lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who gave nine gifts totaling $750, more than one-fifth of Hendershot's $3,345 total. Coming in second was Ricker, who gave six gifts totaling $545.
Hendershot raked in the most gifts (six) in February 2003, starting with a dinner and a Capitals game on Feb. 5, courtesy of Bereano, to a dinner at the Old South Country Club in Lothian on Feb. 29, thanks to Ricker.
Hendershot said many of the people he socializes with are people he was friends with before joining the council. "When I wasn't a councilman, I'd get together with these guys and even then it was on their dime," Hendershot said. Hendershot and other council members are paid about $70,000 annually.
Here's a sampling of the financial disclosure forms submitted by the other, and apparently less social, members of the council:
* Council member Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood) received baskets containing wine, candy, cheese and cookies only in December. Shapiro also notes that he is not the only person in his household earning a check from the county. His wife, Cynthia Gossage, teaches at Prince George's County Community College.
* Council Chairman Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) received his biggest gift, worth $350, from the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association to attend for its auto show on Dec. 29. Coming in a close second were four tickets to a Redskins game from real estate broker Ken Michaels. The tickets, which Knotts notes were given to staff, were valued at $325.48.
Knotts also lists that he is still a paid employee of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Several pieces of legislation affecting the WSSC come before the council. According to council staff, Knotts has recused himself each time.
* Council member David Harrington (D-Bladensburg) received a total of $275 in gifts. The biggest, from Comcast, was for a University of Marylandgame. Harrington notes that his wife, Cheryl, works as a legislative aide for Shapiro. He also lists in other sources of earned income $5,000 from the University of Maryland School of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Harrington formerly was associate director for the Academy of Leadership at the school and was paid for a paper he wrote outlining the academy's future.
* Council member Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) lists her employer, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and lists $270 in gifts, including $100 in Washington Wizards tickets from the Gazette Newspapers, a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.
* Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) received about $155 in gifts, including a $30 cake from Thomas Graham, an executive with Pepco.
* Council member Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) went to the Prince George's Philharmonic in February and October, courtesy of the theater, and attended a concert at the Kennedy Center, thanks to the county public schools, in March. Dean's gifts totaled $675.
* Council member Marilynn Bland (D-Clinton) lists $145 in gifts, including two gift baskets, a cookie tray and a cake. The cookie tray came from Chesapeake Custom Homes.
* Council member Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie) received a $30 polo shirt from the county's visitors bureau and a $40 gift basket from Proctor. Peters' financial report also shows that last year he purchased various pieces of property, including land in Ocean City and Bowie.
County Executive Jack B. Johnson has taken two trips to Florida, one to Milwaukee, one to Chicago and one to Philadelphia since he's been in office.
The cost: $10,070.50, paid from county funds for his out-of-county travels.
The figures were provided from the Office of Law after The Washington Post requested the county executive's travel records since December 2002.
According to the records, Johnson's first trip was in April 2003, when he went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for four days to speak to the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.
After the April trip, Johnson made nearly one trip a month representing the county at various conferences and meetings.
Last May, he went to New York to meet with bond rating companies. In June, he attended the Maryland Municipal League Conference in Ocean City. In mid-July he flew to Milwaukee to attend the National Association of Counties Conference. Then, in August, he was back in Ocean City for the Maryland Association of Counties Conference.
Johnson hit the road again Oct. 29, flying to Chicago to participate in the bid to host Super Bowl XLII in 2008. The transportation and lodging for the overnight trip was paid for by the Washington Redskins.
A week later he visited the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando. He met with Bennett Westbrook, an executive with Gaylord Entertainment Co., and Milton Peterson, the developer of the proposed National Harbor project near the Wilson Bridge. Gaylord is scheduled to break ground on its 1,500-room hotel and convention center this year.
The total amount spent does not include two recent trips taken by Johnson.
Since the office provided the travel report, Johnson has made another trip this month to New York to meet with bond rating firms on Wall Street. Accompanying Johnson were Tom Himler, the county's budget director, Jacqueline Brown, the Chief Administrative Officer and Michael Herman, the county executive's chief of staff.
And earlier this month, Johnson and Hendershot went to visit another of Gaylord's resorts in Texas.
Should football fans be allowed to hoof it to FedEx Field?
A group of county, Redskins, stadium and citizens representatives that put together a county policy barring people from walking along Redskins Road to the Landover stadium on game days will hold a meeting at 10 a.m. May 28 to discuss pedestrian and vehicular access to FedEx, the nearby roadways and the parking lots surrounding the Redskins' home.
The no-walking policy was overturned in December after a Prince George's County judge ruled that the policy was illegal because the so-called "coordinating group" created it without public input.
As a result, Washington Redskins fans who attended the season's final home game were able to walk to FedEx Field on Redskins Road for the first time in three years.
Testimony will be taken from anyone who wishes to speak, but he or she must register at least one hour before the meeting and must limit the remarks to three minutes.
Anyone wishing to submit written comments should send them to Vernon R. Herron, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety, 14741 Gov. Oden Bowie Drive, Suite 5032, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772. Written testimony should be received at least a week before the hearing.
According to the public notice of the meeting, the county warns that part of the meeting "may be conducted in closed executive session if issues of public safety are addressed and the Coordinating Group determines that public discussion would constitute a risk to the public or to public security."