Tag Archives: Mel Franklin

Md. politician Mel Franklin has wrecked a government vehicle before

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Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) was charged with driving under the influence in an injury crash on Nov. 21. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

By Arelis R. Hernández December 1 at 7:22 PM

Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin, who was charged with driving under the influence last week in a crash that injured two people, also damaged another government vehicle on two separate occasions four years ago, according to county records.

Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) totaled a county-owned Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle in a distracted-driving crash in 2012, the records show, two months after banging up the same vehicle in an incident that he did not report to police.

The more serious collision involved Franklin rear-ending a car on the Beltway and resulted in more than $33,000 in repair costs and losses to the government, according to damage reports. Neither crash was reported to the public when it occurred.

Franklin was behind the wheel of another county-issued SUV last week, late on the night of Nov. 21, when he allegedly plowed into the back of a sedan on Pennsylvania Avenue near Forestville. The driver and passenger from the sedan went to the hospital. Police said no one else was in Franklin’s vehicle.

The second-term council member was charged with driving under the influence after state troopers tested him and found he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10, greater than the legal limit of 0.08. Police said Franklin was about 70 yards away from the Ford Explorer, in the median of the roadway, when they arrived at the scene.

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This car was allegedly struck by an SUV driven by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin on Nov. 21. (TWP)

Franklin, 41, has not responded to repeated requests for comment. His attorney also declined to answer questions.

In Prince George’s County, lawmakers can be assigned a full-time car from the county’s fleet of vehicles, or seek a travel stipend to cover the cost of driving their own cars on official business. The county vehicles are for work-related travel and incidental personal use.

County Council spokeswoman Karen Campbell said Thursday that because of his driving record, Franklin will no longer have access to the fleet.

The lawmaker was issued an SUV when he was elected to office in 2010, according to Roland Jones, director of the county’s Office of Central Services. On Oct. 5, 2012, he was involved in a crash that damaged the SUV’s front end and grill but was not reported to police. It cost the county about $1,500 to fix the vehicle.

On Dec. 5 of that year, about 7:30 p.m., Franklin slammed the SUV into the back of a GMC Yukon on the Beltway. He told state troopers “he took his eyes off the road for a moment” to change the radio station and did not receive a citation.

The county’s body shop declared the vehicle a “total loss,” which cost the government $33,171.92 to replace, according to documents provided to The Washington Post.

Neither Franklin nor his attorney have said where he was headed at the time of each of the collisions.

Franklin at that point began to use his personal vehicle, Jones said. In May of this year, he asked for a county vehicle and was issued the SUV that was involved in the crash that led to the drunken-driving charge.

Campbell, the council spokeswoman, would not say whether Franklin needed approval to be assigned the SUV.

Franklin isn’t the first Prince George’s elected official to get in trouble while driving a county-owned vehicle. In 2012, council member Karen R. Toles (D-Suitland) was clocked going more than 100 mph on the Beltway and charged with reckless driving. She avoided getting points on her driver’s license by agreeing to be sentenced to probation before judgment after a two-hour trial before Anne Arundel District Court Judge Megan Johnson.

Toles still uses a take-home vehicle, Campbell said, as do council members Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale), Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington), Todd M. Turner (D-Bowie) and Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel). Council Chair Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville), vice-chair Dannielle M. Glaros (D-Riverdale Park) and council member Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) receive the automobile allowance, Campbell said.

Other Washington-area jurisdictions appear to have more stringent policies on when elected lawmakers can use government vehicles.

Members of the Montgomery County Council drive their own cars and are reimbursed for mileage, officials there said. In Arlington County, board members and the appointed county manager have access to the county’s fleet of vehicles on an as-needed basis, for county business only, spokeswoman Mary Curtius said.

Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors do not have full-time access to vehicles but can reserve a car if needed for government business or work-related trips. The District of Columbia has a pool of two cars and a van that the 13-member council and its staffers share for official business only.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who has a government-issued car and driver, said he has limited the number of people in the executive branch who have access to the fleet. He added that his administration does not police the council.

“It’s clearly within their purview to make the rules,” Baker said. “I think they’ll look at the policies now and see if they need to be changed.”

via Washington post. 

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Prince George’s built a police station, but says it can’t afford to open it.

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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is delaying, for financial reasons, the opening of a Fort Washington-area police station that has been in the works for more than a decade.

Construction of the District VII station is nearly complete, and a commander for the station, which would cover the southern region of the county, has been selected.

But officials said that because of constraints in the budget passed by the County Council this spring, no officers will be available to staff the station this fiscal year.

The decision has angered residents who advocated for the project and has prompted sharp criticism from County Council members, who accused Baker (D) of taking unilateral action.

County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said delaying the opening of the station is “disrespectful” to those communities that had lobbied for it for 15 years and were eager to see it open in September.

 “There was zero communication with the community,” said Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), whose district would have been served by the station.

Aides to Baker placed the blame on county lawmakers and on cuts they made to the budget proposed by Baker.

“It’s funny, because it’s like they are blaming the weather man,” said Baker’s budget chief, Thomas Himler. “We told the [council] it was going to rain, and now it’s raining.”

Baker’s budget included a double-digit tax increase to generate money for public schools, and layoffs and furloughs for county workers to offset a separate shortfall in operating revenue. The council rejected his spending plan, opting for a smaller tax increase and doing away with the layoffs and furloughs. It also proposed setting aside 2 percent of every agency’s budget for contingency funds.

Baker vetoed that budget, warning that the council’s proposal would, among other things, defer the opening of the police station and trigger the cancellation of police recruiting classes. But the council overrode Baker’s veto.

“We were very clear,” Himler said. “They chose to ignore that, and we moved forward. What did they think they were voting on?”

Aides say Baker had not yet publicized the decision not to open the station, which was first reported by WRC-TV (Channel 4), because he has not finalized the spending cuts he is making to comply with the budget passed by the council.

Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw said in a statement that, though the department is eager to open the station, “cuts are preventing us from hiring new officers at a rate faster than current officers will retire.”

For now, officers from Oxon Hill and Clinton will continue to work in the southern region, which includes Fort Washington, Brandywine and Accokeek.

“From a citizen’s point of view, it seems kind of ridiculous,” said 40-year county resident Larry Carbaugh, pointing out that construction of the station is already paid for. “To say it is going to be there but we’re not going to staff it is childish. . . . It sounds like little kids playing games.”

Legislators say they may consider using contingency funds to save the station.

“Our partnership has fallen apart,” said council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington). Baker “has to understand this is not a county that operates under one branch. It’s all of us.”

>>>Washington Post 

>>>Fort Washington residents, politicos demand Pr. George’s open police station

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Update: Budget war in Prince George’s: Council overrides Rushern Baker’s vetoes

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The council reconvened at 8:30 p.m., with Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) absent, and voted 8 to 0 to kill each of Baker’s 32 line-item vetoes, restoring the budget they passed on May 28, 2015.

June 16 at 10:15 PM

The Prince George’s County Council voted Tuesday to override budget vetoes handed down by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, rejecting for the second time in three weeks a proposed double-digit increase in the property tax rate.

The decision illustrates a stark shift by the nine-member council, which has supported most of Baker’s major initiatives throughout his 4 1 /2 years in office.

It reflects concern among lawmakers about increasing the tax burden on the county’s residents, who already are taxed more than residents of neighboring jurisdictions and were hit hard by the recession and foreclosure crises. And it demonstrates skepticism of Baker’s theory that an infusion of money into the troubled public school system will catapult it from the bottom of state rankings to the top over the next five years.

Baker (D) said he vetoed parts of the council-approved budget for two reasons: Because he thinks more spending for schools is vital to the county’s future and because he thinks that the council acted illegally by trimming his budget request by more than 1 percent.

Council members say the second rationale is based on a misinterpretation of a 2006 law that addresses the council’s ability to adjust revenue projections — not budget appropriations.

Baker’s interpretation “is wrong and would unconstitutionally erode our system of checks and balances and give the county executive the near-unlimited power to raise taxes,” said Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), the council’s chairman.

Baker waited until a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday to send his vetoes to the council, long after lawmakers’ legislative session was scheduled to have ended.

The council reconvened at 8:30 p.m., with Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) absent, and voted 8 to 0 to kill each of Baker’s 32 line-item vetoes, restoring the budget they passed on May 28.

The council’s overrides reinstate a 4-cent increase in the property tax rate. Baker had originally proposed a 15-cent increase, then floated an 11.45-cent increase on Monday.

Although the amount is significantly smaller than what Baker sought, it would be the first property tax increase in Prince George’s in nearly four decades — a blow to anti-tax activists who pushed through a tax cap in 1978 and have defended it ever since.

Baker circumvented the cap using a 2012 state law that allows rate increases in excess of statutory limitations if they are specifically designated to fund approved public school budgets. Although members of the council objected during weeks of heated public hearings, they ended up implicitly endorsing the approach by voting for the 4-cent increase.

Lawmakers also overrode Baker’s veto of a 1.5-cent increase in the Prince George’s park and planning tax.

What happens next is unclear. Citizens could go to court to challenge the county’s decision to raise property taxes.

And Baker said Monday that the council’s override could be vulnerable to legal challenge as well, based on his contention that county law prohibits the council from adjusting the budget up or down by more than 1 percent.

Franklin called Baker’s discussion of litigation “embarrassing and strange” for the county as well as “self destructive and self-defeating.”

“Hopefully, the county executive will not go down that road.”

If no one challenges the budget, the version approved by the council would take effect July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

That budget eliminates furloughs and layoffs that Baker proposed to deal with a revenue shortfall and provides money to shore up teacher pensions. But it does not fund any of the programs Baker and school chief Kevin Maxwell have proposed to try to remake the public school system.

Read more >>> It’s an official big mess in Prince George’s County

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Baker’s interpretation “is wrong and would unconstitutionally erode our system of checks and balances and give the county executive the near-unlimited power to raise taxes,” said Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), the council’s chairman.

WRC_0000000010667624_1200x675_454237251635Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro), the council’s chairman called Baker’s discussion of litigation “embarrassing and strange” for the county as well as “self destructive and self-defeating.”

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Prince George’s Hospital loses funding.

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UPPER MARLBORO— County officials continue to express displeasure over Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed 2016 budget after learning the Prince George’s Hospital could lose $15 million in funding.

According to County Council Chairman Mel Franklin, Hogan has backed out of a memorandum of understanding between the state, Prince George’s County and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMS), resulting in a loss of $15 million in funding for the Prince George’s Hospital.

Franklin said the funds were intended to help keep Prince George’s Hospital operational until the Regional Medical Center is built. Per the agreement, the county would match that funding and UMS would operate the center.

However, according to Franklin, that money has been removed from the budget and will not be restored until the Regional Medical Center project gets finished. Hogan provided $30 million for the development of the Regional Medical Center in 2016, and provided funding through 2018 to ensure the project reaches completion. While remains pleased that Hogan has committed to building the Regional Medical Center, Franklin said he wants to make sure funding is restored in a supplemental budget.

“This temporary bridge funding is a necessary part of bringing the new regional medical center into being because it ensures no interruption in service while we proceed in this essential state project,” Franklin said.

>>> Read more 

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