The mayor of the Prince George's County town of Forest Heights has been charged with two counts of assault for allegedly slamming a door on the arm of a police officer last month and knocking over a former council member last week.
Town Police Chief Michael Eubank investigated the first incident and filed charges against Mayor Joyce Beck. One day after she received notice of the charges, she fired him -- and appointed herself head of the four-member police force.
"She appointed herself as acting chief-slash-mayor," Eubank said yesterday. "I've never heard of anything like that. What police academy has she been to? What police experience does she have?"
According to Eubank, Beck was served with charging papers Monday and fired him Tuesday.
She did not return several calls seeking comment yesterday. Beck, 56, was elected in May as mayor of the town, which has a population of 2,600 and covers less than a square mile near the Potomac River.
Eubank said Beck became "standoffish" once he began the investigation.
"I remember her telling me, 'I can't possibly believe you're going to investigate such a trivial act,' " Eubank said. "But somebody on my staff was claiming they were injured. I was duty-bound."
His investigation stemmed from a Sept. 12 incident in which Beck and Lt. William Waithe disagreed about mail delivery, according to charging documents. Waithe was looking for his mailed court dockets, which notify him when he is summoned to appear in court as a witness.
He needed them for the next day and asked Beck for them, believing she had them, according to the charging document.
Beck "has a policy that she stridently enforces of receiving and opening police dept. mail prior to disseminating it to the police dept.," Eubank wrote in his application for a statement of charges. "As a result, court dockets have not been received in a timely manner to victim Waithe."
During the incident, Waithe stood outside the town clerk's office and rested his arms on the Dutch-style doors, which have a top and a bottom portion that open separately. Again, he asked Beck, who was inside the office, for his dockets.
"At that time, [Beck] walked back to the door and slammed the top portion of the door on the victim's right forearm, trapping it between the two halves," Eubank wrote. "Victim then stated, 'Ma'am, my arm, my arm.' "
She then pulled her weight off the door, according to Eubank. Waithe went to a doctor, who told him he had a bruise and gave him a prescription for a painkiller, Eubank said.
Town Council member Myles Spires Jr. said he witnessed the second incident, which took place Oct. 19 and involved Carmelita L. Smith-Barnes, a Forest Heights resident and former council member.
Spires said Beck stormed out of the Oct. 19 council meeting because "she didn't get her way about something." He could not remember what issue the council was discussing at the time because, he said, Beck always storms out of their meetings.
"We've come to expect it during every meeting," he said. "This is what she does."
But this time was a little different.
Spires said that after Beck left, she became upset when the meeting continued and even more incensed when Smith-Barnes shut the door leading to the council chambers.
Spires said Beck returned to the auditorium and shoved the door into Smith-Barnes. A charging document quotes Smith-Barnes as saying that the action "caused me to lose my standing position."
Reached yesterday, Smith-Barnes said she would reserve comment for the trial.
State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey's office will not prosecute the cases because of a possible conflict of interest: He knows the mayor and former police chief. Instead, he is trying to find another Maryland jurisdiction that will take the cases, spokesman Ramon Korionoff said.
Spires said the council is working to try to remove the mayor from office because he and other council members are worried that the mayor has put the town and its public safety in jeopardy.
"This kind of thing could destroy our town, and my constituents need to know what the mayor has done," he said.
Beck's term ends in 2007.