Prince George's State Bank Maryland's first black-owned bank, hired a construction company owned by its two largest shareholders to build the bank's headquarters and paid twice as much for the job as originally of the bank charged yesterday, budgeted, two former directors Joseph McLaughlin, owner of McLaughlin Oldsmobile, Maryland's largest black-owned business, and Dorothy Wynn owner of a public relations firm, said they were ousted from the bank's board of directors Monday because they had complained about the way the bank was being run.
Prince George's Bank opened for business last month at 8515 George Palmer Hwy. in Glenarden in a building renovated for the bank by Jones and Artis Construction, a Washington firm owned by Carl D. Jones and James L. Artis.
Jones and Artis each also own 10 percent of the bank's stock and are on its board of directors, Jones is chairman of the board.
McLaughlin said in an interview that Jones and Artis also have started a leasing firm and proposed to lease office furniture and equipment to the bank.
McLaughlin and Wynn said that, after they and attorney Leonard McCants, the bank's general counsel, complained about all this, they were forced off the bank's board by Jones, Artis and their allies on the board.
McLaughlin said he had become an outspoken critic of the bank's management "because I just don't like to see people running a bank the way they were."
Jones denied yesterday the he was behind the removal of McLaughlin, Wynn and McCants from the bank's board and insisted there were no improprieties in his dealings with the bank.
Charles A. Knott Jr., Maryland's deputy banking commissioner, said banking regulations do not forbid business dealings with bank board members. However, bank board members "should ensure that everything is being done in an arm's-length transaction, and that no self-interest is being served."
Jones said he and Artis took over construction work on the bank's offices only after another contractor defaulted and failed to complete the job. He said their offer to lease equipment to the bank lacked the capital to buy its own furnishings.
His firm's construction of the bank's headquarters did cost almost twice as much as the board had originally budgeted, Jones acknowledged - totaling between $110,000 and $115,000 rather than the expected $60,000.
"I didn't want the (bank renovation) Jones said. "I turned it down the first time the board asked me to do it."
He said the Jones and Artis firm, which specializes in paving work, took over the renovation when the original contractor could not complete the job and the board "asked us to go do what was necessary."
He said the job proved costly because the renovation work was more difficult than expected, and because the original contractor left bills to be paid.
Jones said that McLaughlin, Wynn and McCants were removed from the bank's board of directors as part of the reduction in the board's size.
"Our board is bigger than Riggs (National Bank, the biggest in Washington)" Jones said, "We had to get it down."
A special board meeting was called to scale down the board Jones said. After a vote to cut the number of directors from 21 to 18, the shareholders "voted for the best leaders" and the three ousted members lost, he said.
"I know they say its a power play; that's not true," Jones added. "I don't work that way. My reputation speaks for itself."
Jones said his partner Artis, both Howard University graduates who started out in business with a single pickup truck, built a construction firm that today does more than $4 million worth of business a year. Jones said they became involved in Prince George's State Bank about a year ago when the bank's organizers were raising its initials capital.
Efforts to start a black-owned bank in prince George's County were begun four years ago and during the organizing period involved, Leon Walker, a certified public accountant with offices in Washington; Henry A. Davis, owner of Davis Liquors in Seat Pleasant; State Sen. Tommie Broadwater, a bondsman and owner of the Ebony Inn in Fairmount Heights; State Del. Floyd Wilson, and others.
The purpose of the bank, according to statements by its organizers in 1976, was to cater to "the special needs of minorities in the predominantly black areas of Prince George's. The organizers say the bank would offer an alternative to the "established institutions" in the county and state and would increase the economic development of both black and white businesses in the county.
By last year the organizers had raised only 100,000 in capital far short of the $750,000 minimum requirement set by state banking regulators for the new venture.
About a years ago, the group organizing the bank hired Richard Coleman as a consultant to raise additional capital. Coleman, who is now chief executive officer of the bank, raised the additional money in three months, bringing several successful black businessmen including Jones and Artis into the venture.
Jones and Artis each invested $75,000 and bought 3,750 shares - 10 percent of the bank's total stock - at $20 per share.
A third minority construction official, Clifford Green, owner of Green Construction of Washington, bought 3,250 shares or about 8 percent of the bank.
Other shareholders include Sen. Broadwater and Del. Trotter, a former mayor of Glenarden. Although Trotter is challenging Broadwater in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat in Prince George's 25th District the two political rivals sit on the bank board together. Both declined to comment on the dispute.
Other board president of Information Planning Associates of Gaithersburg; James Clements and James Lombardi, both attorneys, and Davis the liquor store owner.
Ownership of 28 percent of the bank by three investors - Green, Artis and Jones - is unusual foa a Maryland bank. The State Banking Commission generally restricts any investor no more than 5 percent of a bank stock, to assure broad, stable ownship of banks, departmental official said. The requirement was waived for Prince George's State Bank because of the difficulty the minority bank was having in raising money, he said.
McLaughlin and Wynn said the decision to allow investors to own more than 5 percent of the stock is one of the main problems at the bank. "This bank was supposed to serve the community, not just a few people," complained Wynn, who said she worked at recruiting investors for the bank for many months.
The third board members who was oustead, McCants, also complained of "a drift away from the direction we were originally going" and said the bank should "move in the direction of serving community people rather than a small group."
A Silver Spring attorney who had worked on the black banking project for years, McCants said he "would not criticize" "the management of the bank.
He said he had tried to eliminate what he called "bad blood on both sides" of the bank's board, "but I got bushwhacked."