The lights in her office are out. She withdrew her last piece of pending legislation. And her colleagues say they haven’t spoken with her.
But Prince George’s Council member Leslie E. Johnson (D-Mitchellville) remains on the county payroll and will continue to collect her $1,870 weekly paycheck until July 31, unless she steps down before then.
A day after the council called for Johnson’s immediate resignation, reassigned her staff, and asked her to return her county car, computer, parking pass and cellphone, it was unclear Wednesday whether Johnson would comply or whether her colleagues would have to ask the authorities to pick up the county property. Council spokeswoman Karen Campbell said she did not know whether Johnson had consented to the request.
Johnson, 59, a lawyer and former administrative law judge, pleaded guilty last week to destroying evidence in a wide-ranging federal probe that ensnared her and her husband, former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D) on Nov. 12, 10 days after Leslie Johnson was elected to the council. Jack Johnson, who last month pleaded guilty to accepting more than $400,000 in bribes, is scheduled to be sentenced in September. Leslie Johnson is slated to be sentenced in October. Both face probable jail time.
Johnson’s staff was reassigned Tuesday to council administrator Bobby Williams, but she was still communicating with her office Wednesday, according to an e-mail from one of her staff members.
Shortly before the council’s fiscal policy committee was to convene Wednesday afternoon, Johnson staff member Nellvenia Johnson (no relation) e-mailed committee chairman William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville), saying that the council member wished to withdraw her bill to set up a financial literacy task force in the county.
The only other bill Johnson had introduced in her seven months in office was approved by the council: It allows for the appointment of a government examiner to make binding rulings in disputes between residents and condominium or homeowner associations.
Council members, who after learning that Johnson said she had no plans to step down until her sentencing had spent a tension-filled weekend wondering what her next move would be, on Tuesday voted unanimously in a closed-door session to give Johnson her salary but nothing else. Neither Maryland nor county law provide for a way for the council to dismiss her until she is sentenced.
Johnson left the council chamber moments before members moved behind closed doors and hasn’t been seen or heard from since, at least not by her fellow council members.
“No, not a word,” said Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), who was among a group of lawmakers last fall calling for Johnson to forgo her office before she was sworn in Dec. 6.
“Nothing, no, haven’t seen her,” said Obie Patterson (D-Oxon Hill).
As they returned to regular council business Wednesday, holding hearings, taking votes and contemplating the county’s future, the panel seemed relieved but still concerned that Johnson was holding on to her seat despite her colleagues’ entreaties to resign immediately.
“We have had quite a loaded plate in the past six months,” said Patterson, pointing out tough votes on county employee pay raises, budget cuts and Johnson’s role on the council.
“It’s been quite an ordeal.”