Tag Archives: Prince George’s County

Pr. George’s County Politician Busted For drunken driving – requests jury trial

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Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin is known to have an alcohol problem due to his high level connections with the Attorney General Offices of Maryland.

Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin has requested a jury trial on drunken driving and other related traffic charges connected to a November 2016 crash that wrecked a government car and left two injured. Even though the trial is yet to be set, he is expected to walk scoot free because of the state of corruption in Prince George’s County. “It will be a surprise if an example is set out of him because of the people he knows and interacts with on daily basis” said one concerned parent.

Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) was scheduled to appear in Prince George’s County District Court on Monday, but his request moves the case to the county’s circuit court, where he will receive a trial date.

His lawyer appeared at Monday’s hearing briefly to inform the judge of the request for a jury trial. She declined to comment after the hearing.

Franklin was charged with driving under the influence on Nov. 21, 2016 after he rear-ended a car stopped at a traffic light around Pennsylvania Avenue and Dower House Road at high speed while drunk. A police report obtained by The Washington Post showed Franklin’s blood alcohol concentration measured 0.10 after a breath test, above the minimum concentration of 0.08 required to support a DUI charge in Maryland.

Franklin is accused of crashing into a Mercedes stopped at a traffic light at Route 4 and Dower House Road near Forestville last week Nov. 21. According to Maryland State Police, Franklin was found outside the vehicle some distance from the crash site.

 Dwyer said her group’s concerns come not only as a result of the November crash, but also reports that Franklin had been involved in other crashes involving county cars.

The Washington Post reported last year that Franklin was involved in two previous crashes while driving county-issued vehicles: one in October of 2012 that resulted in $1,500 in damage and a second in December of the same year in which the county vehicle was totaled.

In that crash which was not reported to the public, Franklin reportedly slammed into a Yukon GMC. The Post reported that crash was the result of distracted driving and that Franklin was changing the radio station in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Franklin was not cited in the incident.

Franklin has been stripped of his access to county vehicles.

 It’s not the first time a county council member has had that perk taken away. In 2011, then-Prince George’s County council member Leslie Johnson was forced to surrender her county car after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and evidence tampering in a federal case tied to the corruption case surrounding her husband, former County Executive Jack Johnson.

In 2012, Council member Karen Toles, facing a charge of reckless driving, offered to surrender her access to county vehicles until she completed a “driver improvement course.” Instead, the council acted to bar her access to county vehicles according to a council statement “for her safety and the safety of others.”

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An SUV allegedly driven by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin in a Nov. 21 collision in which he has been charged with DUI. (Image via Jaklitsch Law Group)

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The car allegedly hit from the rear at a traffic light by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin in a Nov. 21, 2016 collision. (Image via Jaklitsch Law Group)

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Happy Valentine’s

Red_Bow_with_Heart_Decor_PNG_Clipart_Picture.pngSaint Valentine’s Day (Italian: San Valentino, Latin: Valentinus), commonly known as Valentine’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remains a working day in most of them.

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Here are beautiful happy hug day images for 2017. Enjoy the day!happy-valentines-day-3

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Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County wishes everyone a Happy Valentine’s day.  

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This suburb spends more than $110,000 a year on cars for its lawmakers

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The Prince George’s County Council votes during a meeting in council chambers of the County Administrative Building on Dec. 6, 2016, in Upper Marlboro, Md. At the meeting, the council authorized creation of a Vehicle Use Review Board. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

The Prince George’s County government spends more than $110,000 a year on automobile allowances and take-home cars for county council officials, a perk that goes far beyond what is offered in neighboring jurisdictions.

All nine council members and the council’s two top administrators are either assigned a government vehicle or paid a yearly car allowance.

Between 2011 and 2016, council members driving take-home cars were involved in at least 15 collisions, including a major crash Nov. 21 that resulted in the arrest of council member Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) on drunken-driving charges.

They also received at least 107 speeding, missed-toll and parking citations, according to public records provided to The Washington Post.

Forty-six of those tickets went to council member Karen R. Toles (D-Suitland), a popular lawmaker who drew attention in 2012 after she was ticketed for driving 105 mph on the Capital Beltway.

“No one is ever pleased to be on the receiving end of a ticket,” Toles said in an email. “I am making every effort to reduce further infractions.”

Most council members declined to discuss details of the car program or defended the perk as an important way for lawmakers to get around and stay visible in the 485-square-mile suburban jurisdiction. A few said more accountability is needed.

Community activists say the public is largely unaware of how the privileges work and would be concerned if they had more information.

“It is a benefit that most workers do not get,” said Joseph Kitchen Jr., who lives in the county and is president of Maryland Young Democrats. “For a government that continues to complain about being strapped for cash, they have clearly not done enough to eliminate a lot of fat in the budget.”

A lucrative benefit

Take-home cars and allowances have been a perk for top Prince George’s County Council members since at least 2001. County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) — who does not oversee the council — rescinded the benefit for all but one of his senior staff members in 2011 as part of a broader attempt to clean up the county government.

In 2016, take-home cars and allowances for council officials cost the government more than $111,000, according to records obtained by The Washington Post through a Maryland Public Information Act request. That amount does not include payments associated with Franklin’s collision, when he totaled a county-owned SUV for the second time in four years.

Last year, lawmakers with take-home cars pumped an average of $1,400 in discounted gas from county fueling stations. The lowest gas bill, for a fuel-efficient Ford Fusion used by council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel), District 1, was $633.87. The highest was $2,709.73, for Toles’s SUV.

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Council member Mary A. Lehman, left, speaks with council member Karen R. Toles during a Prince George’s County Board meeting on Jan. 27. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

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The other three council members, along with administrator Robert Williams Jr. and auditor David Van Dyke, received car allowances of $9,688 each.

Elected officials in the District, Arlington, Montgomery and Fairfax use their personal vehicles for work and have limited access to the government fleet for specific out-of-area or business trips.

Last year, Montgomery’s nine council members were reimbursed an average of $2,469 for work-related travel — about a quarter of the cost of a take-home vehicle or car allowance in Prince George’s.

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors spent $8,000 on reimbursements. Most went to compensate staff members working in district offices for their trips to the main government complex. Supervisors themselves cannot be reimbursed for travel within the county. They claimed $554 for trips elsewhere in the state.

Prince George’s Council Chairman Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville) said in a statement that the county’s vehicle program “provides a key tool extending an elected official’s ability to serve their community and represent residents as board members on state and regional bodies as well.”

Davis, who declined to answer questions, noted that the council voted to create a Vehicle Use Review Boardafter Franklin’s arrest that is supposed to examine the car program and recommend changes by June 30.

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The vehicle allowance rose this year to $10,315, based on the estimated cost of gas, maintenance, insurance and yearly payments for a used vehicle of the type assigned in the take-home car program. Officials get just under $400 every two weeks, which is considered taxable income.

Council member Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) called the allowance “a real help,” noting that she and her colleagues are paid about $11,000 less than their counterparts in more expensive Montgomery.

Van Dyke, who as county auditor analyzes financial and budgetary data and tracks council spending, said the car allowance “absolutely ends up being higher than my actual [commuting] expenses … It’s not a matter of need, it’s a perk.”

Williams, the council’s chief administrative officer, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Board members Deni Taveras, left, and Mel Franklin during a Prince George’s County Council meeting. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Although council members with take-home cars are supposed to use them for only limited personal trips, they are not required to log mileage or account for where they traveled, said council spokeswoman Karen Campbell. Several lawmakers said they drive their take-home vehicles on their own time, as well.

“There are not clear-enough restrictions on personal use,” said Lehman, who said she consulted with former council members and staff and concluded it was fine to drive her county-owned car on days when she had no council business.

She said some council members have tried to maintain logs to document nonbusiness trips but that it quickly became an overwhelming task.

For Franklin, “personal use” meant commuting and “stopping to eat after or before work or after or before events,” he said in a written statement. “If traveling out of the county solely for personal reasons, I always used a personal vehicle.”

Council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington) said he tries to be disciplined in using his county car strictly for official business. He said he also has two personal cars.

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Council member Todd M. Turner (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Council member Todd M. Turner (D-Bowie) said he chose a take-home car when he joined the council in 2015 so his teenage daughter could drive his personal vehicle. Now that she is away at college, he said, he plans to get the car allowance instead.

Council members Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale) and Toles did not respond to questions about personal use of their take-home vehicles.

Baker declined to take a position on the council’s policy, saying it was not his role to police the legislative branch.

When he came into office, he eliminated the car allowance for members of his administration. He cut the number of executive branch officials with take-home car privileges to his chief administrative officer and 31 others who travel extensively for work — mostly prosecutors and investigators in the state’s attorney’s office and the heads of the homeland security, corrections and public works agencies.

Crashes and citations

Five current council members have been involved in collisions while driving county cars since 2011, the records provided to The Post show. Lehman and Toles each had two, Harrison had three, and Franklin and Patterson each had four. In at least eight of the 15, council members were at fault.

The most serious incidents involved Franklin, who rear-ended drivers in three separate crashes that resulted in injuries. He has declined repeated requests to discuss the incidents.

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This SUV driven by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin in the Nov. 21 rear-end collision. (The Washington Post)

Franklin banged up the front of a county SUV in October 2012 andtotaled the same vehicle that December. The county paid more than $61,000 to purchase a new SUV and cover repairs on the other vehicles and liability claims. Neither crash was reported to the public when it occurred.

After the second collision, Franklin stopped using a government car. He received a vehicle allowance until May 2016, when he again was given a county vehicle.

Following the Nov. 21 crash, which sent two people from the other car to the hospital, Franklin was suspended from the take-home car program and denied a vehicle allowance Davis said in a statement at the time that Franklin may eventually be able to get reimbursed for business travel, depending on “his legal status and the status of his driving privileges.”

Franklin, whose blood alcohol level measured 0.10, is scheduled to appear Monday in Prince George’s County District Court, according to online records. He wrote in a report to the county that he was on his way home from a restaurant the night of the crash and was tired.

“But I thought I was fine to drive home,” he wrote. “I briefly dozed off and failed to stop at the intersection with Dower House Road and struck one vehicle from behind.”

During the years he drove a county car, Franklin racked up 20 citations — more than any colleague except Toles. Lehman had 17 citations, Harrison had 15, Patterson had seven and Turner had two, according to the records provided.

“Any speeding camera, parking or toll camera tickets were unintentional mistakes and were personally paid for,” Franklin said.

Patterson said he is often surprised by the location of speed cameras in his district, in the southern part of the county. “I probably just got caught,” he said.

Lehman said in an email that she had been ticketed fewer than three times a year over a six-year period, in some cases for toll violations because her E-ZPass wasn’t properly activated.

“I’m trying to be more careful, but I don’t believe it’s a significant problem for anyone except me!” she wrote.

Harrison did not respond to questions about the tickets she received.

Toles’s 46 citations were for parking illegally, speeding or ignoring tollbooths or red lights.

A speed camera in Berwyn Heights caught her driving 57 mph in a 40 mph zone on March 28, 2011, three months after she took office. That July, Toles was ticketed for leaving her car in a no-parking zone on Main Street in Upper Marlboro, near a popular lunch spot for county government employees and about 400 yards from a government garage where council members can park free.

Toles lost her take-home car privileges for several months after she was pulled over in July 2012 for driving 105 mph on the Beltway. She told police that she was applying makeup and answering emails on her phone but did not notice that she was making unsafe lane changes or speeding.

The council member was granted judgment before probation, apologized and completed a driver improvement course, which enabled her to avoid points on her license. By spring 2013, she was back in a government car. Again, the citations began to roll in.

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Council member Karen Toles, second from right, poses with Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) during Edwards’s recent Senate campaign. To the left are council members Mel Franklin and Obie Patterson (partially hidden). At the far right is council member Andrea Harrison. (Arelis Hernandez/The Washington Post)

In her statement, Toles said she accumulated the tickets while “executing my duties as a public servant.” She noted that she had paid all the fines, which totaled $4,400, including $1,200 in late fees.

Records also show that Toles pumped $2,709.73 in county-provided fuel in 2016, more than double the 1,170 average gas bill of her colleagues. The council member, who is taking night classes at the University of Baltimore Law School, did not respond to questions about why she used so much gas or whether she drove the county SUV to get to her classes.

Toles’s citations were not serious enough to affect her driver’s license or record. But the volume concerns longtime critics. Community activist Bruce Branch, who ran against Toles in 2014, called her driving record an “egregious violation of public trust.”

For Toles supporters like Elsie Jacobs, however, the citations are not a big deal. “I don’t have an issue with it, because if they have a ticket, they got to pay it,” said Jacobs, a local leader in Suitland. “We have other things to worry about.”

Possibility of change

The council voted Dec. 6 to establish a three-person panel to study the county’s car-use and allowance policy and records.

On Wednesday, Davis announced the board appointments: business executive Jacqueline L. Brown, community activist Samuel A. Epps IV and engineer Enor R. Williams Jr. In a news release, he said the board would begin its work in early March.

The board could recommend suspending or revoking the driving privileges of any council member or changing the council’s vehicle policies.

But some council members have suggested it may be time for a change.

“There are some aspects of car use that really are not as clear as they could be,” Lehman said. “Along with the issue of should council members have county cars, the vehicle-use board should look at the finer points” of personal use and requirements for documenting travel.

Patterson said that although most council members have not committed major infractions with county cars, the risk of losing the public’s trust on this and other perks may outweigh the benefit to lawmakers.

“I think even before this started popping up, we should’ve been looking at this and all of our policies,” Patterson said. “We need to be more aggressive in our oversight responsibilities.”

Via Washington Post

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County council takes no position, board of education opposes 1107 repeal

Annapolis-State-House-MD-flagUPPER MARLBORO – Both the board of education and the county council weighed in on the state’s efforts to change the structure of the Prince George’s County Board of Education yet again.

The Prince George’s House Delegation is considering a bill, PG 402-17, which would repeal major provisions of HB 1107, passed by the General Assembly in 2013. The repeal would return the body to an all-elected board and create provisions for special elections – at county expense – to fill vacant board seats. Under current law, the county executive has the power to fill vacant board seats, as well as to appoint four members to the board and choose the chief executive officer (CEO) for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). The repeal would give the board the power to choose who heads PGCPS.

During a Feb. 2 work session, the board of education voted 9-2 to accept the board’s policy committee’s recommendation to oppose the bill. Edward Burroughs, III and Raheela Ahmed, both elected members, cast the no votes.

“The power really lies in the hands of three individuals, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to those individuals, and it’s not fair for our system to have this form of governance that is so determined by three individuals,” Ahmed said of the current structure. “If one of the key players changes then that can cause some imbalance in our system, and that’s not fair for our students and our schools either.”

Demetria Tobias, associate general counsel for PGCPS, said the policy committee recommended the board oppose the bill for several reasons. She said it is premature, because HB 1107 already included provisions for reporting and evaluating progress under the new governance structure to allow the General Assembly to revisit the changes in the 2018 session. Tobias also said the impression was that the bill was partially in response to the issues the school system has faced over the last year, such as the loss of Head Start funding and child abuse allegations. She said those problems are not symptoms of the school system’s governance structure being broken.

“It is unfair, in our view, and inaccurate, to blame those issues, those crises, those problems that we are actually working on, on the new governance structure,” Tobias said.

Burroughs disagreed. He said the board’s inability to hold school leadership accountable for failing to share information about the warnings sent by the federal government about the Head Start program resulted in the loss of the funds.

“If I have the ability to select my own leadership, those individuals would have been held accountable by this board. The county executive refused to hold the leadership accountable, and as a result we lost the funds,” Burroughs said.

He also said the fact that the board of education needs a two-thirds vote to override the CEO’s decisions was a cause of rising class sizes and administrative costs within PGCPS.

His board colleague Beverly Anderson also criticized that two-thirds vote policy, but said the structure of the governing body isn’t as important as the people that make it up.

“I think 1107, almost any structure is okay, but it’s the attitudes and the implementations and the transparency of workers and what my peer Ms. (Lupi) Grady said – it’s bringing our best to the situation,” Anderson said. “And I think that our best has not yet been brought, but this is not to speak against 1107 but rather to speak to the need to refine 1107.”

Board member Sonya Williams agreed that refining HB 1107 would be preferable, and said the board should take a more active role in doing that work because they understand best the needs of the school system.

“I think in order for us to be proactive, I think we need to take the time between now and next session to determine what we want the House Bill 1107 to look like,” she said. “No one sitting outside this boardroom knows the details we review, approve, conversate on. So, no one can tell us what this House bill should look like. No one can tell us what the governance of this board should look like.”

On Jan. 31, in a 6-1 vote, the county council approved a letter to the House and Senate delegations stating the council takes no position on 402-17. Councilwoman Andrea Harrison was the dissenter, and Councilmembers Mel Franklin and Karen Toles were absent. The council arrived at its position while meeting as the Rules and General Assembly committee last week, but members held individual, and strong, opinions in spite of the consensus.

A major point of dissent was the statement in the draft letter that the board’s composition prior to the enacting of HB 1107 was problematic.

“I disagree with the statement that there were ‘inherent problems with the former board’s composition.’ I don’t know where that’s coming from. That’s how the county board of education looked for years and years and years before it was temporarily replaced with a nine-member appointed board,” said Councilwoman Mary Lehman.

Lehman said the issue is with the board’s effectiveness, not its composition. Her colleague Deni Taveras disagreed, saying the prior system did not require the board members to have high-level degrees in the educational field.

“I do recall that there were a lot of problems with the fact that we were basically the laughing stock of the region in terms of the qualifications of the board that was in place,” she said. “I think that when we’re dealing with $2 billion worth of money, I think that people should expect some level of qualification, that they’re experts in their field.”

Harrison disagreed and said it was “snobbish, uppity, and judgmental” to say someone is not qualified for the board of education because of a lack of a degree. Lehman said more concerning to her was the fact that some board members did not have children in the school system they were overseeing.

In the end, the council agreed to some minor wording changes in their letter to the state. The letter as amended says, “We believe that a complete repeal would require some further discussion on the type of replacement or alternative. Simply returning the governance structure back to how it was prior to HB 1107 may not likely be the best approach to furthering systemic edification in (an) effort to increase student achievement.”

The letter also indicates the council supports another bill before the delegation, PG 416-17, which would create a task force to study school system governance. The council, according to its letter, feels that “any further changes to the board will require some type of intensive study of best practices.”

The council did request the timeline for the task force’s report be moved up, from Oct. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2017, to coincide with the reporting required under HB 1107.

Although the letter has been sent, the council’s discussions with the delegation will continue. Council Chair Derrick Davis urged his colleagues to be precise in those conversations.

“When you talk to your friends on the Maryland state legislature, that you separate the things that we agreed upon from the things that you may feel as a specific and individual member,” he told his colleagues.

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Md. Governor Larry Hogan appoints Jazz Lewis for delegate open seat

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Organizer and campaign staffer Jazz Lewis has been nominated to fill the vacant District 24 delegate seat.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has appointed Jazz Lewis, a staffer for Congressman Hoyer, to fill Prince George’s County’s District 24 delegate seat. The seat was left vacated after Michael Vaughn resigned.

According to officials, Vaughn resigned from his position in the House of Delegates on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 following massive public corruption involving public officials engaged in liquor fraud.

“I am confident that Jazz Lewis is prepared to use his expertise to serve his constituents in Prince George’s County,” Governor Hogan said in statement sent to the press. “I offer him my sincere congratulations and look forward to working with him to change Maryland for the better.”

Lewis will represent District 24, serving Prince George’s County. Lewis currently serves as the executive director for Congressman Steny Hoyer’s campaign office. He has been involved in multiple political campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and Senator Ben Cardin’s 2012 campaign.

Lewis, 27, is a Glenarden resident and himself a previous member of the Prince George’s County central committee. He is also an Eagle Scout, an active member of the Greater 202 Coalition.

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FBI Investigates Nashville Judge’s Relations

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking questions about an embattled Davidson County judge.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking questions about an embattled Davidson County judge, NewsChannel 5 has learned.

Their focus is on allegations of improper relationships and official actions involving longtime General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland.

FBI agents began conducting interviews after allegations emerged from a Metro police investigation into the death of Leigh Terry, a 34-year-old Nashville woman who friends say struggled with depression and alcohol.

Her body was found inside an apartment in the Stahlman Building across from the Metro Courthouse.

Police ruled her death a suicide.

Terry’s death came just days after a trip to the Alabama coast with Moreland and defense attorney Bryan Lewis — a pair whose relationship and vacations have raised ethical questions in the past.

Accompanying the two on this trip were Terry and two other women who, according to court records, had all been defendants assigned to Moreland’s court at some point in the past.

According to the police investigative file, Lewis admitted paying for Terry’s apartment in the Stahlman, as well as loaning her the gun she eventually used to kill herself.

He later admitted the relationship with Terry was more than just an attorney-client relationship.

“It would be classified a friend and a friend with benefits. Had I had sex with her on occasions? Yes,” Lewis told a Metro detective in a tape-recorded interview.

Lewis said he first met Terry when he represented her on a 2013 DUI.

A former boyfriend, Roy Matlock, told police that Terry told him right after they met about a troubling encounter with Moreland.

“When I met her she basically gave me like all her dirty laundry,” Matlock told police.

“She told me right then that she had sex with Casey Moreland in the chambers – and that’s what kept her out of jail. And she said I feel nasty.”

Police reports show another former boyfriend, Brian Pesterfield, also insisted Terry had told him “she got out of a DUI by sleeping with Judge Moreland.”

In fact, court records show the 2013 DUI was originally assigned to Moreland.

But the final order, reducing that case to reckless driving and sentencing her to five days in jail, was signed by another judge.

Jail records show Terry never showed up to serve her sentence.

Still, court documents show that Moreland later terminated Terry’s probation, effectively ending the case.

Also on the trip was Natalie Amos, who admits she was in a relationship with Judge Moreland.

She was reluctant to tell police who was on the trip.

“I know you don’t want to mention somebody, but I just need to know who we are talking about,” a Metro detective said to Amos in a recorded interview.

“Casey Moreland,” Amos replied.

According to the police file, Terry had told Roy Matlock that “when Natalie Amos told her she owed high court fees, she would call Judge Moreland and have them waived.”

Numerous witnesses said Terry began acting erratically during the trip, even threatening to expose Moreland and Lewis.

“She said, ‘Ok, I hope you’re ready.’ And she’s like ‘I will ruin you.’ She said ‘I know things.’ She’s like ‘you both know what I’m talking about,'” Amos told police.

Pesterfield recounted how “on the trip she yelled at Bryan Lewis and Casey Moreland that she was going to tell the media about the trips and the mistresses, how she slept with Casey Moreland to get out of a DUI.”

Bryan Lewis’s reaction to her threats:

“I took that as an idle threat from her, something that was made in the heat of the moment and, you know, that she wouldn’t follow through with,” Lewis told police.

And Moreland told police he also felt Terry “would calm down and come to her senses” once she got home.

A former boyfriend flew down to the Alabama coast and brought her back to Nashville.

Just days later, the troubled young woman took her own life.

Again, multiple sources say FBI agents have begun conducting interviews in conjunction with these allegations.

We don’t know whether this is just a preliminary investigation — or a full-fledged public corruption case.

Moreland’s attorney Worrick Robinson said they will cooperate with any investigation and he looks forward to telling Moreland’s side.

Via newschannel5.com

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Prince George’s County Officers File Complaint due to Discrimination

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Dozens of officers with a Maryland police department signed a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging racial discrimination within their department.

More than 70 officers who are members of the local chapters of the National Hispanic Law Enforcement Association and the United Black Police Officers Association signed the complaint alleging unfair promotional practices and unfair disciplining among white and minority officers. Concerns also include how minority officers and white officers interact with each other, said Bob Ross president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP.

The complaint was filed in October.

“The Department of Justice is in receipt of correspondence from the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association about this matter,” a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. “That correspondence has been referred to the Civil Rights Division for response. We have no further comment.”

The Prince George’s County Police Department is forming a panel to review internal practices. Police Chief Hank Stawinski has not received the complaint but is proactively creating the panel, police sources said. The goal of the panel is ensuring fair practices.

“The panel is a collaborative effort that has been months in the making,” Assistant Chief Hector Velez said in a statement released after News4 reported the complaint on Twitter. “If the panel discovers any concerns or issues, the chief wants to know. … The department is strong because of the men and women who make up our ranks. The Chief wants to hear from them directly.”

The panel is not being created in response to the complaint, police said.

The department’s independent Inspector General and a representative from Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 will co-chair the panel, which will include union representatives and members of institutions outside the police department.

Source: Maryland Officers File Complaint With Justice Department Alleging Racial Discrimination in Police Department | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Maryland-Officers-File-Complaint-With-Justice-Department-Alleging-Racial-Discrimination-in-Police-Department-412593953.html#ixzz4XszqqWke

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Photo by: Jose Luis Magana – Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski called Officer Jacai Colson “a hero,” saying he fired at Michael Ford, momentarily drawing the shooter’s attention away from the station and affording officers a chance to take cover. No other officers were injured. (Associated Press)

Read more >>>70 PG County police officers allege discrimination at work: Report

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PGCPS FY 2018 Budget Hearing at Charles Herbert HS

hqdefaultThe Prince George’s County Board of Education held its first public hearing on the fiscal year 2018 operating budget on January 24, 2017 at Charles Herbert Flowers High School. Various members of the public spoke at the hearing. A Board of Education budget work session immediately preceded the hearing.

Ms. Tonya Wingfield presented her analysis  following the Board hearing you can watch her comments below.  The public will have an opportunity to comment at other hearings and/or to submit written comments during other dates in the future. The proposed Operating Budget for PGCPS Fiscal Year 2018, is found here. The preliminary proposed budget is submitted and annually reviewed by Prince George’s county citizenry and interested parties; upon approval, the final budget goes into effect July 1.

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Prince George’s New Planning Director Is Not Actually a Planner

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Ms. M. Andree Green – Prince George’s New Planning Director Is Not Actually a Planner. She began her tenure as Planning Director on January 18. She replaces Dr. Fern V. Piret, who retired after serving 26 years in that position.

Via @PGUrbanist

In a curious move, somewhat reminiscent of President Trump’s recent cabinet appointments, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) has selected someone with no formal training or professional experience in planning to serve as the director of the Prince George’s County Planning Department. No other jurisdiction in the Washington region has made such a choice, and for good reason: such a decision defies common sense, and it likely contravenes Maryland law.

Attorney M. Andree Green (Checkley), of Upper Marlboro, began her tenure as Planning Director on January 18. She replaces Dr. Fern V. Piret, who retired after serving 26 years in that position. For the past six years, Green worked as the County Attorney for Prince George’s. Before that, she worked for approximately eleven years in the legal department of M-NCPPC, the quasi-independent state agency responsible for planning, zoning, parks, and recreation in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Without question, Green is an experienced government lawyer, with nearly two decades of experience working in Prince George’s County. But Green is not a planner. She has never worked as a planner as has no educational background in planning. So how and why is she now being paid $192,000 a year to be the county’s Planning Director?

Green is Unqualified for the Planning Director Position

The Prince George’s County Planning Director is supposed to be an experienced planning professional. The position description for the job, which we obtained from M-NCPPC, states that the minimum qualifications are “at least 12 years of progressively responsible and broad-ranged planning experience that includes four years of planning experience at the managerial level, preferably five years at the department manager level.”

Green has zero years of professional planning experience, either at the managerial or non-managerial level. The American Planning Association’s American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) is the national body that verifies and certifies the professional qualifications of planners. According to AICP standards, Green lacks even the minimum level of professional planning experience to be eligible to take the certification exam.

Thus, Green did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job when she was hired. Indeed, Green does not even meet the minimum qualifications for the currently-posted position for Deputy Planning Director, which requires 10 years of professional planning experience and preferably two years at the managerial level.

By contrast, nearly all of the other planning directors in the Washington metropolitan area had more than 15 years of prior management-level experience in planning before assuming their respective positions, and most are AICP-certified. [UPDATE: For a comparison of the qualifications of the region’s planning directors, see this chart.]

M-NCPPC Likely Violated State Law By Hiring Green

The state law creating M-NCPPC specifically provides that the Planning Director and Deputy Planning Director in Prince George’s County “shall have education or professional experience in a field relevant to the responsibilities of that department.” As judged by the agency’s own criteria, as set out in the job descriptions, Green does not possess the requisite education or professional experience for either position. Therefore, M-NCPPC’s hiring of Green was arguably arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to Maryland law.

M-NCPPC spokeswoman Andrea Davey stated that the Planning Director position was posted on a variety of websites for approximately three months, from August 2–October 31, 2016, and that a total of four candidates were selected for interview. The agency would not disclose the identity of the other three candidates, citing confidentiality laws. However, Davey did indicate that the agency “did not deem it necessary to employ an executive search firm” in connection with this position.

Dorothy Bailey, Vice-Chair of M-NCPPC’s Prince George’s County Planning Board and a member of the selection committee, stated that Green was “second-to-none in her commitment to Prince George’s County, and in her know-how of the critical nuts and bolts involved in the planning process.” Board chairwoman Elizabeth M. Hewlett also cited favorably to Green’s “proven managerial experience and keen legal acumen.”

Green may well be a committed public servant, and she certainly has relevant legal knowledge and managerial experience. But she lacks any prior professional experience or training in planning—and that makes her selection as Planning Director untenable, and possibly unlawful.

How Can M-NCPPC Fix This?

Green’s employment contract is for two years, and it contains a “sweetheart” severance provision requiring the agency to pay her 12 full months of salary ($192,000) if it breaks the contract without cause. However, M-NCPPC could likely still void the contract without penalty, since Green did not have the requisite experience for the job to begin with. Additionally, the severance provision could itself be unlawful, since state law requires that the Planning Director and Deputy Planning Director shall “serve at the pleasure of the Prince George’s County Planning Board.”

Ideally, M-NCPPC should consider reopening the Planning Director position and conducting a national search for a truly qualified and experienced professional planner with a proven track record in leading a large urban planning department. If possible, Green could be offered another position within the agency that meets with her actual qualifications and experience (e.g., a position in the legal department or in intergovernmental affairs).

Perhaps more than any other jurisdiction in the Washington region, Prince George’s County needs an experienced and innovative professional planner to lead its planning department—someone who can advocate effectively against the county’s overdependence on outer-Beltway sprawl development, help develop a workable plan for transit-oriented development and revitalization around the neighborhood gateway Metro stations near DC’s border, and oversee the implementation of a new 21st century zoning ordinance, among other priorities. Let’s hope M-NCPPC will make that happen.

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