Category Archives: $433K Union Theft Not Reported Because of “Potential Impact on Membership”

Shocked Board member Belinda Queen argues County Residents to demand better after witnessing abuse.

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Board member Belinda Queen (center) in dotted dress.

By Reform Sasscer Staff:

One of the newly elected Board of Education member Belinda Queen has hit the ground running and is demanding answers after discovering corruption at High Point High School in Prince George’s County public Schools (PGCPS).  First question which the public should be asking: What took anyone in the Board so long?

Some outrage would be welcome at long last after the board of education failed over the years to protect the youth in this school. Other facilities have similar problems and serving contaminated water.

Question 2: Where was the fraud unit or PGCPS internal audit and why did it take a newly elected board member from another district to get this case made?

Question 3: Given overt partisanship, Can elected officials in the Prince George’s County council wide office be credible leaders of a review of legislative corruption?

We recommend Hon. Belinda for speaking out and exposing an issue affecting hundreds of students in Prince George’s County.

She writes:

“I prayed hard on this and HE knows I gotta express my concerns. I’m a Public Elected Official who speaks my mind and who believes in Educating, Engaging and Empowering the people.

I need your help…PGC Residents
“Speak Out! Speak Up & Demand Better!”

We need to put pressure on our Elected Leaders in the State and the County to vote on the funding of the Kirwan Commission and to invest more money into these old schools and distasteful trailers and the schools with major Maintenance issues.

We had our Public Budget Hearing at High Point HS last week (not a really old school😂 right just like Central HS )and it has been bothering me ever since… you’ll know me w/ my camera 👀😤 at these Disgusting Bathroom our kids have to use. How Nasty!

What makes me more upset is our Delegation wants to mandate laws without funding the mandates. We already seem to have major maintenance backlog. Where’s the Money?? If we are $600 Million Dollars short already why would you even think about mandates without funding? We gotta replace these 🤬 people who are not putting our Kids First. Let this mess be in their homes. 🥺

Reach out to your Elected Leaders and “Demand Better” in our Public Schools.

PS: I am human and wasn’t elected as a perfect person so please forgive any typo’s or incorrect English in advance.”

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Md. Gov. Hogan vetoes school construction bill, warns against override

A92D4634-6075-440E-8A3B-CBCFFE13E59FGovernor Hogan VETOED House Bill 1783 – the now-infamous Backroom Bill, which would take Maryland’s Public School Construciton Program away from the Board of Public Works and give it to an unelected body of political insiders who meet in virtual privacy.

To demonstrate bipartisan solidarity, Comptroller Franchot added his name to the veto, signing it “Peter Franchot – For the People.” Now hoping against hope that the Senate will do the right thing and allow this veto to stand. #ClassroomsNotBackrooms #ForThePeople

Read more >>> WTOP

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PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell meets with Md. State Board of Education to discuss grade-fixing audit

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Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell
BALTIMORE – The head of Prince George’s County Public Schools faced the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday, the first time since a troubling state audit showed grade-fixing and policy violations allowed students to graduate without meeting state requirements.

At the hearing, state board members pressed Dr. Kevin Maxwell on the root causes of the findings and whether there has been a shift in culture in the school system.

“It seems like something is going on here,” said Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick. “I don’t want to go too far, but it seems like some signal, something is happening to suggest to schools, to teachers, to someone, ‘We gotta graduate these students irrespective of some of these rules we have.’ And that is what I have been grappling with here.”

Smarick noted some of the most outstanding audit findings — grade changes that could not be verified, late changes to student transcripts and students graduating despite more than 50 unexcused absences.

In response to questions about the driving forces behind the audit findings, Maxwell spoke about staff confusion on grade change forms, lack of automation, high staff turnover and people who were not clear on policies. He emphasized the audit found no intimidation or fraud by him or his staff.

After the hearing, FOX 5 asked him again about the underlying causes of the problems uncovered.

“The audit, I think, gave us a very good roadmap to the fact that there are some issues that need clarification, there are some procedures that need to be updated, there is a lot of training and there are some compliance issues,” Maxwell said.

At one point, a school board member asked whether emphasis on graduation rates by the state and federal government was to blame, but Maxwell did not agree that outside pressure was a factor.

Maxwell and his staff outlined their plan to correct what was found by the audit and the ways the school district is tightening up policies, putting more oversight in place and retraining staff.

Janna Parker, a Prince George’s County community member who attended the meeting, said the plan is a good first step, but feels what she did not see from Maxwell was accountability at the top.

“I think when you base any plan on not fully accepting accountability or placing the accountability on who and where it needs to be, it’s flawed plan,” Parker said.

When asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent statement that some of what is going on in Prince George’s County Public Schools is criminal, Maxwell said he did not agree with the governor.

Smarick said the state board is now going to decide how and if the state will intervene in the school system and what is legally possible. He said there should be decisions made by the next meeting in February.

There could be another audit, and while there has been no public talk of the state taking over Prince George’s County Public Schools, it is something that’s happened in other states.

After the meeting on Tuesday, the state released graduation rates for districts across the state. Prince George’s County had a record high of 82.7 percent for 2017.

via Fox 5DC Read more >>>Washington Post

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Rushern Baker, Prince George’s County school leaders face tough questioning from Maryland lawmakers

EB8BAF82-B4AA-42D0-9DFE-2F7C595729D6ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A confrontation played out in Annapolis between Prince George’s County leaders over the school system and how it is being run.

On Tuesday, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell and School Board chair Dr. Segun Eubanks faced tough questions from Prince George’s County state lawmakers who are considering changing the structure of the school system after a host of problems.

Several years ago, lawmakers voted to allow Baker extraordinary control over the school system after a high turnover of superintendents. It allowed Baker to select the superintendent as well as part of the school board. In most districts, an all-elected board chooses the superintendent.

Maryland State Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), the co-chair of the Prince George’s County House Delegation, asked about accountability.

“Who do we hold accountable for fraudulent graduation rates? Walker asked. “Who do we hold accountable for nepotism in the school system? Who do we hold accountable for graduates crying on their graduation day? Who do we held accountable for sexual predators taking advantage of our kids in our school system?”

In response, Baker said he is responsible. He didn’t point to his choice for head of schools and said he still stands behind Dr. Maxwell.

FOX 5 asked Baker what he says to those who believe the experiment to give him greater control over the school system has failed.

PGCPS CEO Maxwell to meet with lawmakers next week
“I would tell them to look at the progress we’ve made in Prince George’s County,” Baker said. “I think the number of people putting their children back in our school system, you look at the scholarships the children are getting, look at the programs that we’re coming up with.”

Walker said he has seen no evidence this system of governance benefits students.

“I asked [Baker] time and time again to show me something that has been better and there has been no indicators here,” Walker said. “It hasn’t been test scores, it hasn’t been attendance, it hasn’t been college readiness. So we need to find accountability.”

When asked if he had faith in Dr. Maxwell as head of Prince George’s County Public Schools, Walker responded, “Absolutely not.”

The process to potentially take away the county executive’s control of the school system is just beginning, with efforts underway to make it a reality this legislation session.

Baker is running for Maryland governor, so he is definitely leaving his county post later this year, but he said he will still fight for this governance structure of the school system because he believes it is best for the county.

via Fox5DC

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BOARD QUESTIONS GRADUATION INVESTIGATION RESPONSE

School Board Pic4UPPER MARLBORO – The Dec. 19 Prince George’s County Board of Education special meeting was scheduled specifically to discuss the school system’s response to the graduation audit, but it quickly turned into an interrogation.

Just hours before the meeting, reports came out about a 2016 internal Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) audit report that showed the school system was struggling with consistencies in student record keeping more than a year ago that have not been fixed.
Board members Edward Burroughs, III and David Murray, along with several Prince George’s County residents, came to the meeting prepared to ask questions and throw accusations.

“Did you hear? They knew the whole time,” Burroughs said continuously to residents as they filed in before the meeting started.

The audit findings sent to the school system on May 4, 2016, detail many issues with PGCPS’s handling of student records. The letter was sent to Gwendolyn Mason, and Adrian Tally, both with student services and cc’d to eight higher-ups in the school system including Board Chair Segun Eubanks, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell, and two deputy superintendents.

The internal audit specifically noted issues with system-wide student record keeping, detailing 72 instances of noncompliance with the Office of Student Records, Transfer and Archival Services (OSRTAS) record management.

There were 213 instances of noncompliance with “PGCPS registration documentation requirements” and found no system-wide operating procedure to “ensure full compliance with the state of Maryland mandate regarding student records.”

Meaning there was no “documented process to prevent or respond to instances of errors resulting from the improper or untimely completion of the Graduation Standard Credit Summary.”

Burroughs, Murray and several members of the public pointed to this audit during the Dec. 19 board of education meeting as proof that the school system administration knew about graduation fraud and lied about not knowing.

However, Maxwell said he was not directly responsible for combing through that audit, as it was sent to him and while he is informed about audits his only action comes if he is told corrective measures have not been taking to address issues brought up in audits.

“The responsibility to make those corrections, as several of us have stated, rested in the department of teaching and learning with the folks in student records and internal audit,” Maxwell said.

“There are a lot of reports that people get in the divisions of this organization and there’s an accountability responsibility for people to respond to the audit to be notified if things don’t happen, and when I’m notified that things don’t happen…then we take care of those things. If that doesn’t happen, I am not the one, its internal audit and others who are responsible for tracking the response to those audits.”

Maxwell said it is not possible for him to directly respond to every internal audit, noting there are “thousands and thousands of audits that get done in this district every year.”

Monica Goldson, a PGCPS deputy superintendent, said she was not made aware of the audit until October 2017 and worked with student services to craft a response and action plan. That action plan is now being monitored monthly.

Although a significant portion of the meeting was used to ask about the previous audit, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the school’s system response to the most current state findings regarding possible graduation fraud.

That audit also found that the school system was not adhering to its own policies regarding student record keeping and that there were students who had graduated from PGCPS without meeting the requirements to do so.

About 4 percent of the 1,212 student sample size was found to have not met requirements, though the auditors could not determine if nearly 25 percent had rightly graduated or not due to poor documentation.

“The findings were sobering,” Maxwell said. “They focused our attention on the need to strengthen our governance structures, policies, procedures and school-level record keeping.”

To address those issues, the school system plans to update its policies and procedures to ensure clarity over what is required and then retrain and provide continual training on those policies to improve and ensure adherence.

Maxwell and Chief Operating Officer Wesley Watts said PGCPS also plans to update its technology to automate “archaic processes” and ensure the greater ability of control and oversight of grade changes.

“Currently staff and IT are working on upgrading the SchoolMAX student information system to improve graduation certification, and we’re also creating a grade change for electronically,” Watts said.

Goldson said before the current school year, PGCPS began limiting the number of employees with access to student records, bringing the number of grade and transcript managers at each school down to two.

As 2018 continues, the school system plans to select a third party to monitor the steps taken toward correcting the issues laid out by the audit.

PGCPS also plans to continue updating policies and procedures, determine criteria for excessive absence, work on revamping the multiple pathways to success program, and launch the pilot of the electronic grade change forms.

Maxwell said the action plan would be submitted to the state in December as work continues, but Murray is wary change will come and said he sees a trend in the school system.

“Do we not see a trend here? This is very similar to what happened to Head Start,” Murray said, pointing to the fact that PGCPS was unable to correct issues Head Start found in the school system in time to preserve the federal funding. “Is this not a concerning trend that outside organizations have to get involved for us to do our job?”

Via thesentinel.com

This scandal will become a focal point of the race for Governor as Baker uses his record on education as a keystone of his campaign. Sadly, Baker’s record is one that focused on doctoring the results of grades in order to make Baker look good politically rather than actually improve education and the ability of Prince George’s County students to succeed.

Please feel free to check out the remarks of these concerned parents in their own words:

 

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Bowie council member Glass gets probation on DUI charge

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Bowie City Council member Courtney Glass has pleaded guilty last week to driving while impaired and was given probation before judgment by a Prince George’s County judge. (Courtesy Photo)

A Bowie City Council member Courtney Glass pleaded guilty last week to driving while impaired and was given probation before judgment by a Prince George’s County judge.

District Court Judge Vincent J. Femia set aside the plea and sentenced Glass to six months of unsupervised probation and assessed $645 — a $500 fine and $145 in court costs, said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Glass could not be reached for comment. She was represented by attorney Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., president of the state Senate, online court records show.

The traffic incident involving Glass took place in May of last year. Bowie police responded to a call about a possible hit-and-run accident near Annapolis Road and Grenville Lane at about 11:15 on the night of May 18, police said.

The motorcyclist, identified at Christian Streeter of Bowie, was not seriously injured, police said.

In addition to the fines and court costs, Glass was ordered to pay $1,020 in restitution to compensate Streeter for the insurance deductibles he paid for treatment and rehabilitation of the minor injuries he sustained. The nature of his injuries was not made clear.

Streeter could not be reached for comment.

A witness was able to get the license plate number of the vehicle that struck the motorcyclist. Bowie police officers eventually traced the vehicle to Glass, police said

Officers went to Glass’ home in Bowie shortly after midnight, where they encountered her after she had parked her car. Officers said they smelled alcohol on her breath, according to police, and administered a field sobriety test.

Glass, a legislative analyst for the Prince George’s County government, declined to take a Breathalyzer test, police said.

She was cited for driving under the influence, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and failure to return and remain at the scene of an accident, online court records show. All of the charges were merged into a single county of DUI.

Glass, 34, is in her first term on the council, representing District 3. She won the spot in 2015, during the most recent citywide election.

Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said he did not anticipate any sort of official reprimand for Glass, because she received only probation and a fine for the incident.

“I don’t think we’ll be doing anything,” he said. “It’s a matter between her and the court.”

via capitalGazzette

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Rushern Baker III

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Bowie City Council member Courtney Glass was represented by attorney Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., president of the Maryland state Senate.

Hogan proposes ‘investigator general’ to probe problems in Md. schools

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday called for the creation of an “investigator general” to address complaints in local school systems, arguing that parents — who have complained over the past year about altered grades in Prince George’s County and inadequate heating and air conditioning systems in Baltimore City and Baltimore County — are losing confidence in public schools.

Hogan (R) said an independent investigator would have subpoena power and full authority to investigate ethical claims and corruption allegations against school officials. The position, which must be approved by the Democratic-majority General Assembly, would be based in the state Department of Education.

“Taxpayers, parents, teachers and especially students have a right to expect, and they deserve, more accountability,” Hogan said at a news conference to announce education bills he plans to propose during the 2018 legislative session.

Hogan said he also will submit a bill to change the schools accountability plan the General Assembly approved over his objections last year, reviving an issue that resulted in a veto override. In addition, he announced a bill to provide emergency funds to help pay for heating repairs in Baltimore City schools, which closed some buildings last week, and again Monday, because of extreme cold.

Aides to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said they had not seen the proposals and declined to comment.

Sean Johnson, the director of legislative affairs for the Maryland State Education Association, called the investigator general proposal “a tool to go on a fishing expedition to create a lack of public trust in public schools.”

He said the governor should focus instead on the work of the Kirwan Commission, a panel examining whether current school-funding formulas are equitable.

“The governor should stop attacking our public schools and start rolling up his sleeves with the rest of the state’s leaders to reverse this shameful underfunding and make sure the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations become law,” Johnson said.

Hogan said school leaders have “repeatedly failed” their students.

The governor has been particularly critical of facilities problems in both Baltimore City and County, and of Prince George’s response to a graduation-rate scandal.

He says Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Hogan in November, and Kevin Maxwell, Baker’s handpicked schools chief, have not responded adequately to allegations that school officials changed grades so that more students could get their high school diplomas.

On Monday, Maxwell said Hogan “has not provided any details” of his proposal for an investigator general “and he hasn’t asked for any input from school superintendents about how best to support our public schools.”

Prince George’s school board member Edward Burroughs, the leader of the group that brought the grade-changing allegations to light, said he would welcome an independent investigator.

The state board of education “does not have the capacity to investigate wrongdoing on a larger scale,” Burroughs said. “So to have an [investigator general] with the ability to subpoena documents, the ability to compel people to testify and to refer individuals that have done unethical things to law enforcement is an important thing.”

Del. Alonzo T. Washington (D), a lawmaker from Prince George’s, has proposed a bill to create a similar position solely for that county’s school system.

Montgomery County school board member Patricia O’Neill said she sees no sign of diminishing confidence in public education but also has no problem with an investigator-general approach to accountability.

“I think every school system, every public entity, needs to be held accountable,” she said.

To address heating and air conditioning repairs at Baltimore schools, Hogan said he will propose emergency legislation to provide $2.5 million in emergency state funds.

“This is not to reward these people responsible who have failed,” the governor said. “This is about saving kids from being freezing in winter and from sweating . . . in warm weather.”

Over the past week, city and state officials have battled over who is responsible for the nearly 60 schools in the city that lacked heat during a historic cold spell. Some repairs were done over the weekend, but eight schools were closed Monday morning for facilities issues.

The governor’s school accountability proposal would change a performance plan approved by the General Assembly last year. That plan, which had the support of the state’s teachers union, says 65 percent of a school’s rating would be based on academic indicators such as standardized testing, student achievement, student growth and graduation.

The rest of the rating would depend “school quality” indicators such as absenteeism, school climate and access to a well-rounded curriculum.

Hogan wanted academic indicators to count more heavily. He vetoed the bill, but the legislature voted to override the veto.

At the news conference, Hogan said he will propose a bill to raise the weighting of academic indicators to 80 percent.

O’Neill took issue with the idea of increasing the weight of test scores in determining school performance. Strong outcomes, she said, are the result of multiple factors, including good teaching and strong school leadership. While it is important to hold school systems accountable for every child, she said, “an overemphasis on testing does not improve public education.”

via Washington post

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PGCPS investigating allegations coaches bullied, harassed members of C.H. Flowers HS cheer squad

4DAD92F7-3C4E-498B-A60F-64970BB290E2.jpegSPRINGDALE, Md. – In a 6-page letter obtained by FOX 5, a group of at least a half-dozen parents allege that coaches bullied, harassed and hazed members of the novice cheer squad at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Prince George’s County.

The letter outlines allegations of coaches calling students profane names, mismanagement of program fees and physical retribution in the form of extra exercise for students whose parents complained about the practices.

The parents did not speak on the record with FOX 5 for fear of retribution aimed at their daughters, but they chose community activist and Maryland State Senate candidate Everett Browning to speak on their behalf.

“We all understand tough love, understand coaching, but calling a young lady who has come for a cheerleading team, constantly calling her a b***h, constantly calling her other words to her face, calling her dumb, stupid and telling her she’s not good enough to be a part of the program is unacceptable,” said Browning.

The letter also details student complaints about being pushed to exercise to the point of absolute exhaustion.

“[They are] pushing some of these ladies to where they are throwing up and physically sick and ill, and they are threatened not to tell their parents about it because if they do, they are threatened, they will be thrown off the team,” Browning said.

He said when the parent complaints to coaching staff continued, the novice squad was disbanded.

“This has been going on for almost a year and unfortunately when the parents decided to stand up together, the coach decided to disband the team,” Browning said. “So instead of addressing it, they just told these girls you are no longer going to be able to come here and participate.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesperson John White confirmed the school district is investigating the allegations and conducting interviews with staff and students. The principal is in the process of meeting with parents to address their concerns.

“We always want to make sure that our staff and our coaches are treating children with the same respect that they would want to receive and so we take the allegations seriously,” said White. “We have begun to interview students as well as adults in the building to find out exactly what has occurred.”

The parents are asking that the coaches be replaced, their money be accounted for and the school to guarantee their daughters can participate in cheer and be protected from harassment.

via Fox5DC

PGCPS Administrator on Leave After Charge He Chased Student for Littering

2922C06D-8418-4B58-A30A-498C85EB3CF3.jpeg administrator for Prince George’s County Public Schools is on administrative leave after he was accused of chasing a student and grabbing her because she allegedly threw garbage out of a school bus window and it hit his car.

Associate Superintendent Mark Fossett is on administrative leave pending an investigation, officials confirmed.

“We expect all of our administrators to behave professionally, which is why we’re investigating,” PGCPS spokesman John White said.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told News4 that on Friday, Dec. 1 a student at Wise High School in Upper Marlboro was headed to school on a bus when she threw some trash, possibly an empty potato chip bag, out of a window.

Fossett happened to be driving behind the bus. The trash hit his car, White said school officials were told.
Once the bus got to the school, Fossett got on board and yelled at the students, the source said.

The teen who allegedly littered got so upset that she jumped off the bus and started running to the school.
Fossett then chased her, and the student said he grabbed her by the arm, the source said. He denied that he grabbed her, according to the source.

White declined to comment on the specific charges and said an investigation is underway.

via NBC4

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Prince George’s County Foreclosures and other dead ends

Dr. Haitham Hijazi, Director, DPIE

Dr. Haitham Hijazi, Director, DPIE is a Syrian immigrant who is an engineer with a doctorate and was appointed the head of Prince George’s new permitting, inspections and enforcement office by Mr. Rushern Baker III.

In case you ever fantasized about making a million or few by house flipping —

There are two avowed official registries of foreclosures that take place in Prince George’s County, Maryland. One is included in the statewide registry maintained by the State of Maryland. The other is maintained by the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE, pronounced “D-Pie,” as in “cherry pie”).

Neither registry is open to the general public. The Maryland Foreclosed Property Registry is, as stated on its website,

an online, password-protected system managed by the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation in the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (“DLLR”).

By law,

DLLR may grant access to the Registry only to State agencies and local jurisdictions, including counties and municipal corporations

to facilitate code enforcement, etc. The DLLR’s registry is not a before-the-fact research tool in any case; it is not a list of properties coming on the market.

Effective October 2012, in accordance with Maryland Code, Real Property Article § 14-126.1, every residential property purchased at a foreclosure sale must be registered in this system.

Purchasers are required to submit an initial registration of the property within 30 days after the foreclosure sale.

The purpose of the Maryland registry is to close the chronological records gap between the date of the foreclosure sale and the date the deed is recorded,

when unoccupied homes may fall into disrepair and it can be difficult to identify or contact the new owner.

The purchaser still has that 30-day grace period between buying a foreclosed property and submitting the registration. And again, the registry is not publicly accessible.

The information contained in the Registry is by law not a public record, and DLLR cannot grant access to the general public.

Prince George’s County

The registry maintained by the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE) is also closely held, though apparently in a different sense. DPIE’s public notice, on the agency website, explicitly tells mortgage holders to register foreclosures:

Foreclosure Property Registration Form

Attention Lenders
Please register a property (residential or commercial) that is in the process of foreclosure. After the information is completed, it will be added to Prince George’s County’s Foreclosure Property Registry.

The form itself tells lenders to deliver it in person or mail it to the DPIE “Foreclosure Registration Unit” in an office condo at 1220 Caraway Court, Largo, Maryland. The form includes spaces for the name, address and contact information of the property owner; it does not include any statement or certification that the property owner has been contacted about the foreclosure.

P. G. County DPIE Foreclosed Property Registration Form

Questions have now arisen as to how the Prince George’s County foreclosure registry is used. Like the State of Maryland registry, it is not open to public view. According to a person with close knowledge of the process, “Historically,” the registry kept by DPIE has been “highly restricted.” The County foreclosure list is announced via DPIE website for the purpose of registration, but the list itself is “held very close to the vest.” Access to the registry is applied for through a Maryland Public Information Act request; form linked here. To find out about the foreclosures, you fill out the form and submit it, asking for records. The form then goes up the managerial pipeline through “appropriate channels.” Indications are that even people involved in the MPIA process are not necessarily involved in the resolution of MPIA requests, nor are they necessarily informed about requests granted or denied. The hole in the channels leaves open a realistic possibility that access to the registry may be secretive but may not always be protected. This possibility has been confirmed in interviews and conversations with County officials.

The stated rationale for holding the P. G. County foreclosure registry so closely is the danger of squatting in vacant properties. The County does not release the information on upcoming foreclosures because officials do not want to give advance notice to squatters. “You can read between the lines” as to this claim, this writer was told. I asked whether the list breaks down into foreclosures on abandoned properties and foreclosures on occupied homes. Answer: no.

Where to file if you’re foreclosing in P. G. County

Asking whether interested parties such as house flippers could access the registry, I was told, “You’re on the right track.” There is no in-house mechanism to prevent exchange of friendly influence or sharing information with flippers. Indeed, the Director of DPIE himself, Haitham Hijazi, is closely connected to more than one house-flipping company through immediate family members as well as through his ownership of property on which his relatives operate their businesses. (Previous blogs on this topic linked here and here, among others.) Dr. Hijazi has not returned messages requesting comment or information. His son Abdullah Hijazi, principal of a house-flipping company who has appeared as party and as attorney in numerous foreclosure cases, has also not replied to request for comment.

The foreclosure registry may be somewhat arcane to the general public. However, as someone with knowledge of the operating structure and the registry has said,  “your information is known by a variety of people here”–meaning in the county and in county government. But–“they also know nobody’s doing anything about it.” The problems with foreclosures, the genuine phenomenon of troubled homeowners being pushed out of their homes by people with a vested interest in the houses is “Probably pretty well known among key people in the county,” I was told, but county officials cognizant of the issues seem to be covered by “teflon.”

As previously noted, Hijazi as head of the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement is one of County Executive Rushern Baker’s few holdovers from the previous county administration. Baker’s office has not yet had time to return a call requesting comment.

More to come

via  Margie Burns

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