THE region

United Way Consolidates Its Offices

The United Way of the National Capital Area announced plans yesterday to phase out eight regional offices and consolidate operations into three service centers -- in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Plans call for eliminating the agency's small offices beginning next month and trimming administrative overhead by the time major fundraising begins in September.

The staff has been reduced from 90 to 38 since 2002, and no further layoffs of full-time employees are necessary, a spokesman for the organization said.

The charity has been troubled by financial problems and a loss of support from both corporate and individual donors in recent years. Many of the problems were caused by allegations of financial mismanagement and criminal charges against some of the charity's former officials.

THE DISTRICT

Trio of Gas Line Breaks Prompts Closings

D.C. firefighters evacuated several buildings and closed streets yesterday after construction workers accidentally severed three high-pressure natural gas lines in separate, unrelated incidents, officials said.

The first trouble occurred about 7:30 a.m. when crews working near Blair House, the official residence of dignitaries visiting the White House, broke a gas line. The second occurred about 10:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of P Street NW, and the third ruptured about 11 a.m. in the 2400 block of 17th Street NW.

Work crews shut off the gas within about an hour of each leak, said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. No one was hurt.

"It's highly unusual to have three of these things" in such a short period, Etter said.

Park Police Chief Denied Reinstatement

Ousted U.S. Park Police chief Teresa C. Chambers has lost a bid to return to work while she appeals her firing to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Chambers has maintained that the Interior Department targeted her as a whistleblower after she publicly voiced concerns last year about the budget and staffing of the Park Police force. She was placed on leave in December and fired July 9.

Elizabeth B. Bogle, an administrative law judge with the merit board, denied Chambers's request for reinstatement while her case is pending.

Tax Auditor Imprisoned for Bribery

Former D.C. tax auditor Adewale Ogunyale, 50, was sentenced to 51 months in prison yesterday for taking bribes from company officials last year in exchange for cutting their tax bills.

Ogunyale's job in the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue was to determine the correct amount of corporate taxes that businesses owed the city. Ogunyale solicited payments from company representatives to illegally lower their taxes. He accepted $30,000 in cash from one company in August 2003, according to evidence presented at his trial, and agreed to reduce the city taxes from $400,000 to $72,000. He was convicted in May.

Judge Gladys Kessler said yesterday that his crimes were such a breach of the public's trust that she was compelled to give him the longest possible sentence for the crime, 51 months.

Ogunyale was the second D.C. tax auditor successfully prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. Obafemi Orenuga, 51, of Lanham, was convicted in April of receiving $19,000 in bribes and was sentenced by Judge John Bates to 24 months in prison.

maryland

Four Men Held in Teen's Death

Four men charged in the slaying Sunday night of Noah J. Jones, 17, outside a party in Pasadena are in custody, Anne Arundel County police said last night.

The Associated Press reported that police were looking into the possibility that the slaying was racially motivated. The suspects are white, and Jones is black. Police declined last night to comment on that report.

Police identified the suspects as Joshua D. Bradley, 20, of Pasadena; David M. George, 19, of Glen Burnie; Richard E. McLeod, 18, of Chestertown; and Jacob T. Fortney, 18, of Pasadena.

Authorities said that Jones and two others, also African Americans, were summoned to the party in the 700 block of 205th Street by a friend who was being threatened by some partygoers. Jones and his friends got into an altercation with the suspects and were beaten in the head and face, police said.

The Associated Press reported that attorneys for the accused denied that race was a factor and contended that their clients acted in self-defense. They alleged that Jones and his friends had weapons and were looking for a fight.

Horse Farms Cleared for Tree Cutting

The Montgomery County Council, capping a year-long look at laws governing how the owners of equestrian facilities may use their land, has conditionally exempted such facilities from the county's forest conservation laws.

Landowners who qualify will be able to cut down some trees.

To qualify for the exemption, an owner of an equestrian facility must maintain forests on at least 25 percent of the property, refrain from clearing trees along streams and use "best management" practices. The exemption is not available for a property that has been cleared of forests during the previous five years. Also, the owner of a property that is more than half forested must keep trees on at least half the property.

Council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) initiated the review a year ago at the request of Fuad el-Hibri, a Poolesville area resident who keeps horses as a hobby.

Bus Crash Injures 3 in Prince George's

Three people suffered minor injuries yesterday when the Metrobus in which they were riding crashed into a utility pole in Palmer Park, authorities said.

Capt. Chauncey Bowers, a spokesman for the Prince George's Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said the bus -- on the A-15 route -- struck the pole shortly before 4 p.m. at Palmer Park and Barlow roads. He said live electric wires toppled onto the bus, trapping the driver and his six passengers inside for about an hour. Pepco shut off the power at about 5 p.m., allowing the passengers to leave the bus safely.

The injuries were caused by the crash and were not considered life-threatening, Bowers said.

"When that Chesapeake Bay goes, the heart of Maryland stops beating."

-- Former Maryland state senator Bernie Fowler, 80, who has advocated for cleaning up the bay since 1970. -- Page B4

Compiled from reports by staff writers Jamie Stockwell, Cameron W. Barr, Carol Leonnig, Del Quentin Wilbur, Allan Lengel and the Associated Press.