A son of former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson went to work in the county’s health department during his father’s last weeks in office despite a hiring freeze that left key positions vacant for months, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Jack B. Johnson Jr., who is known as Bruce, was hired as a budget analyst at an annual salary of $71,483, according to the documents, which were obtained through a public records request. This was the second time the 31-year-old was hired by the county last year: He was employed on July 20 as a temporary budget analyst in the Department of Environmental Resources until his permanent hire at the health department on Sept. 13, the day before the Democratic primary.
In an interview, Donald Bridgeman, the former head of the human resources department, said the younger Johnson was on a list of “rated” job candidates vetted by his department from which county departments could select potential hires. “I recall sending the list to the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Resources. That is the extent of it for me,” said Bridgeman, a longtime associate of the elder Johnson, a Democrat now charged with taking bribes and destroying evidence.
“He was professionally qualified,” he said of the younger Johnson.
Neither Johnson, who was registered as an insurance broker in 2010 with the state of Maryland, nor his father returned requests for comment. County officials in the new administration of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) declined to provide Johnson’s resume.
Details of the hire emerged after the elder Johnson, and his wife, County Council member Leslie Johnson (D-Mitchelleville), were both arrested Nov. 12, and charged with evidence tampering and destruction of evidence. Last month, federal officials also indicted Jack Johnson on bribery charges. Leslie Johnson, who has not been indicted, was elected to the council last year but her colleagues have not allowed her to serve on council committees until the investigation is over.
Both Jack Johnson and Leslie Johnson have denied any wrongdoing. Jack Johnson is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday; Leslie Johnson is seeking a delay of her scheduled court appearance this week.
The paperwork from the county’s human resources department shows that the Bruce Johnson hiring was completed in about two months through a process that the human resources reported in budget documents generally takes 150 days. No one has suggested Johnson is unqualified; he was hired over about 45 other “rated” candidates who county records show had met the basic qualifications for the job.
“It’s a long process and a lot of paperwork. Nothing moves quickly,” said a source with detailed knowledge of the county’s hiring processes who did not want to be named because of concerns that many of those who were involved in the hiring are still employed by the county.
In separate interviews with The Post, Bridgeman and Dr. Donald Shell, who heads the county’s health department, said official procedure was followed in the Johnson hiring.
“There was no pressure from anybody,” said Bridgeman. “I don’t even think Mr. Johnson knew. I never discussed it with him. It was made known to me when (Bruce Johnson’s) name was on the certificate that he was Mr. Johnson’s son. I knew that it made no difference to me.”
However, some required documents that could be disclosed by the county were not and are either missing, or were not filled out. For instance, documentation required by county policy justifying hiring Johnson at a pay rate about $20,000 higher than entry level was not provided by the human resources department.
There was also no documentation provided of a decision by a committee — composed of Bridgeman, then-acting chief administrative officer Ralph Moultrie and Jonathan Seeman, Johnson’s budget director — that would have been required under county policy to approve a waiver to allow Johnson’s employment during a hiring freeze. At the time, key management positions, including the supervisor of the agency’s five budget analysts, the head of the department’s adult and geriatric unit, and the chief of administrative services for the agency, were left vacant.
Bridgeman said the committee met and approved the waiver. However, despite repeated requests by The Post, the human resources department did not produce any record of the meeting.
Shell said he had gone to great lengths to ensure the hiring was handled properly.
“I generally make sure, not just with high-profile individuals, my mantra is to make sure that county processes are followed across the board,” Shell said. “The current administration has reviewed it and we haven’t heard of any concerns.”
However, Moultrie and Seeman said they don’t recall a committee meeting or a waiver.
“I have no recollection of any discussion or meeting” of the committee, said Seeman.
Moultrie added: “I did not realize he was employed.”
Baker’s office said it had provided the documents it could. “This is a decision made by the previous administration,” said spokesman Scott Peterson.