Ethics bills put forth by Baker

Ap­proval sought in wake of Prince Ge­orge’s cor­rup­tion probe

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY MI­RANDA S. SPI­VACK spi­vackm@wash­

Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker III (D) is ask­ing the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly to ap­prove two ethics mea­sures to limit the abil­ity of lo­cal law­mak­ers to seek cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from de­vel­op­ers.

The pro­pos­als come as for­mer county ex­ec­u­tive Jack B. John­son (D) and his wife, newly in­stalled County Coun­cil mem­ber Leslie John­son (D), face fed­eral charges of de­struc­tion of ev­i­dence and ev­i­dence tam­per­ing in a cor­rup­tion probe. The John­sons were ar­rested Nov. 12 af­ter be­ing over­heard on a fed­eral wire­tap al­legedly dis­cussing ways to de­stroy a $100,000 check from a de­vel­oper and hide $79,600 in cash in Leslie John­son’s bra.

One of Baker’s mea­sures would re­strict County Coun­cil mem­bers’ abil­ity to ac­cept cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from de­vel­op­ers while they are con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion that would di­rectly af­fect de­vel­op­ers. A sec­ond bill would limit mem­bers’ abil­ity to in­ject their views into pend­ing devel­op­ment pro­pos­als un­less a de­vel­oper or a res­i­dent has asked for coun­cil in­ter­ven­tion.

The mea­sures would close a loop­hole that al­lows coun­cil mem­bers to vote on cases in which they have re­ceived con­tri­bu­tions through a slate, an in­di­rect way of re­ceiv­ing funds that oth­er­wise are barred by law. Even though the county ex­ec­u­tive does not play a di­rect role in zon­ing mat­ters, Baker’s pro­posal also seeks to re­strict the county ex­ec­u­tive’s abil­ity to col­lect cam­paign funds from a de­vel­oper while an ap­pli­ca­tion is pend­ing. A bill plug­ging the slate loop­hole also has been pro­posed by state Dels. Dereck E. Davis and Justin D. Ross, Prince Ge­orge’s Democrats.

“ These bills rep­re­sent a bal­anced ap­proach to ad­dress past bad prac­tices,” Baker said in a state­ment is­sued Satur­day.

A day ear­lier, Baker named three mem­bers to his in­tegrity panel, which will hold its first pub­lic meet­ing Wed­nes­day at Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Largo.

The Ac­count­abil­ity, Com­pli­ance and In­tegrity Ad­vi­sory Board, chaired by for­mer Bal­ti­more mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, will ex­am­ine cur­rent county prac­tices for over­see­ing ethics in govern­ment and re­search oth­ers. One of the panel’s key tasks will be to de­ter­mine if the county needs an in­de­pen­dent in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice, which Baker said dur­ing his cam­paign he wanted to cre­ate.

Baker named three mem­bers to the panel: Pa­tri­cia G. Adams of An­napo­lis, an at­tor­ney and mem­ber of the Mary­land Work­ers’ Com­pen­sa­tion Com­mis­sion; Linda Botts, owner of Ash­lin, a Green­belt-based man­age­ment com­pany; and for­mer County Coun­cil chair­man Peter Shapiro (D) of Hy­attsville, founder and di­rec­tor of the Ch­e­sa­peake Cen­ter for Pub­lic Lead­er­ship. Re­tired Prince Ge­orge’s County Cir­cuit Court judge Wil­liam D. Mis­souri is vice chair­man.

The 9 a.m. meet­ing Wed­nes­day will be held at the com­mu­nity col­lege’s Largo Stu­dent Cen­ter, Com­mu­nity Room B on the sec­ond floor.

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