Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, who was cleared of wrongdoing in an inquiry into a delayed payment to Prince George's Hospital Center, yesterday called the charge against him the "dirtiest form of politics," designed to "smear" his reputation.
Johnson released the six-page report sent to him Wednesday from Maryland's state prosecutor, who found "insufficient evidence . . . to support the contention that the County Executive may have engaged in criminal misconduct in office."
The report closes a probe that State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli began in April to examine the allegation made by Calvin Brown, chairman of Dimensions Healthcare System Inc. during a March 9 hearing. Brown said Johnson withheld an emergency $5 million payment from the financially troubled hospital until Dimensions hired one of Johnson's associates, K. Singh Taneja.
Several weeks after the Board of Health hearing, David Van Dyke, the chief auditor for the County Council, sent a letter to State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey about the allegation.
"Brown stated that the County Executive had placed certain conditions on the transfer of the money," Van Dyke wrote April 12. "Specifically, the conditions were the hiring of a person into a key management position. . . . Brown stated that once this person was hired, the money was then transferred to Dimensions."
The report, signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Thomas McDonough, found no evidence of undue pressure.
"Not a single witness interviewed states the County Executive Johnson recommended or requested, much less demanded, that Taneja be hired by Dimensions," the report said.
Johnson cautioned others who might try to malign him.
"Just because I'm an elected official, I'm not going to be bounced around or punched on, and people who make these allegations better be prepared to defend them in court," he said. He would not say whether he plans to take any action against his accuser.
In the report, the state prosecutor said his office received an anonymous letter that suggested that Steward Seitz, a vice president at Dimensions, "was displaced by the hiring of Taneja and could provide information suggesting that his hiring was improper." According to the prosecutor, Seitz said he "had no knowledge or reason to believe that anything improper had occurred."
The $5 million in question was pledged by Johnson last Oct. 23 as the first installment in a five-year, $30 million aid package for the hospital, which treats three-quarters of the county's uninsured residents. The council approved the plan five days later. It wasn't until March 3 -- more than four months after the council's action and nine days after Taneja was hired -- that Johnson gave the check to Dimensions at a news conference.
The state prosecutor's report said that even if a link between Taneja's hiring and release of the money "were accepted as true and sufficient to raise questions, there is absolutely no evidence suggesting a corrupt motive for doing so. In fact, the only evidence suggests an entirely proper motive -- a desire to protect the County's investment."