Speed­ing coun­cil mem­ber to take driver-safety course

PG po­lice of­fi­cial de­fends of­fi­cer’s han­dling of ticket

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

Se­cu­rity costs that would force Bal­ti­more and the state’s 23 coun­ties to col­lec­tively pay an ex­tra $239 mil­lion this year.

Coun­ties have widely panned the pro­posal, say­ing they have al­ready made ma­jor cuts in re­cent years and that added costs will only make things worse.

“We’ve made ma­jor, ma­jor ad­just­ments,” said Mont­gomery County Ex­ec­u­tive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, a Demo­crat. “This is sim­ply some­thing that is not work­able. It is some­thing that we can­not ab­sorb.”

Leg­is­la­tors also com­plained that it reached too far into the state’s mid­dle class.

Mary­land teacher-pen­sion costs have es­sen­tially tripled in the past decade as coun­ties have im­proved re­tire­ment pack­ages to at­tract and re­tain per­son­nel. The state paid nearly $1 bil­lion in pen­sion costs last year.

A grow­ing sen­ti­ment has emerged within the Gen­eral Assem­bly that coun­ties should be­gin shar­ing the costs. Mr. O’mal­ley had re­sisted such ef­forts since tak­ing of­fice in 2007 be­fore propos­ing a split this year to help trim the state’s $1.1 bil­lion struc­tural deficit.

“At the cur­rent stage, the state can’t af­ford to carry the full freight,” said Sen. David R. Brink­ley, Fred­er­ick Re­pub­li­can. “If there’s an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion to shift­ing, I’m open to it. But no one has come forth with it.”

Mr. Brink­ley and other Repub­li­cans

The Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil mem­ber clocked driv­ing at least 105 mph in her county ve­hi­cle — but not tick­eted for speed­ing — says she will give up the car un­til she com­pletes a driver-safety course.

The county po­lice depart­ment, fac­ing scru­tiny about whether coun­cil mem­ber Karen R. Toles re­ceived pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, says a team of top brass and le­gal an­a­lysts in the depart­ment will be­gin a re­view of the in­ci­dent next week.

Ms. Toles was pulled over af­ter an of­fi­cer ob­served her driv­ing on the Cap­i­tal Belt­way at a high rate of speed and mak­ing un­safe lane changes. She was is­sued a $90 ticket for the un­safe lane change but only a warn­ing for ex­ces­sive speed, even though po­lice said she was trav­el­ing more than 50 mph over the speed limit.

As­sis­tant Chief Kevin Davis de­fended the of­fi­cer’s decision not to is­sue Ms. Toles a speed­ing ticket, say­ing the 14-year depart­ment veteran who stopped her is as­signed to an ad­min­is­tra­tive job rather than pa­trol and was un­able to es­tab­lish the ex­act speed Ms. Toles was trav­el­ing. The of­fi­cer did not have a radar gun, nor was he able to “pace” her to es­tab­lish her speed. The 105 mph fig­ure comes from the speed recorded on the of­fi­cer’s car as he tried to catch up with her, he said.

“The of­fi­cer did be­lieve he had prob­a­ble cause for one ci­ta­tion and he felt he didn’t have quite enough prob­a­ble cause to is­sue a ci­ta­tion for the speed, so he elected to is­sue a warn­ing ci­ta­tion,” As­sis­tant Chief Davis said at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

“Pre­lim­i­nar­ily, we don’t be­lieve that this po­lice of­fi­cer af­forded any­one spe­cial treat­ment,” he said.

Ms. Toles apol­o­gized to con­stituents in a state­ment Wed­nes­day about the Feb. 22 in­ci­dent.

“In ad­di­tion to pay­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate fine, I will not be driv­ing a county owned ve­hi­cle un­til vol­un­tar­ily com­plet­ing a driver im­prove­ment course to en­sure my safety and the safety of oth­ers,” she said in the state­ment.

On Tues­day, when news of the in­ci­dent broke, Ms. Toles said she was leav­ing a meet­ing and was late to her next ap­point­ment at the time she was pulled over.

Ms. Toles, a Demo­crat, was tick­eted

have pro­posed deeper cuts in the state bud­get that could free up enough money for the state to pay all or most of teacher-pen­sion costs.

A state com­mis­sion rec­om­mended last year that law­mak­ers phase in a shift over mul­ti­ple years rather than jump­ing im­me­di­ately to a 50-50 split.

County lead­ers ar­gued Wed­nes­day that an even split will hurt coun­ties and that con­di­tions will only get worse in com­ing years as pen­sion costs are ex­pected to in­crease.

They also expressed con­cerns about law­mak­ers’ pro­posed changes to the state’s main­te­nance-of-ef­fort law, which re­quires coun­ties each year to meet or ex­ceed the pre­vi­ous year’s per-pupil fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion.

The assem­bly is con­sid­er­ing bills that could add teeth to the law, clos­ing a loop­hole that al­lows coun­ties to re­duce fund­ing and pay a one-time penalty, then use the re­duced fund­ing level as their ac­cept­able min­i­mum for fu­ture years.

Sev­eral coun­ties used the method last year to seek re­lief from the law but now worry about a stricter fund­ing man­date putting them in fur­ther fi­nan­cial peril.

“We are re­ally squeezed,” said Howard County Coun­cil Chair­man Mary Kay Si­gaty, a Demo­crat. “I see the state bud­get as be­ing much broader and able to per­haps ab­sorb some costs.”

Sen. Dou­glas J.J. Peters, Prince Ge­orge’s Demo­crat, said state leg­is­la­tors have sym­pa­thy for the coun­ties but that they have their own bud­get woes to worry about.

He said the assem­bly could con­sider giv­ing ex­tra rev­enues to coun­ties or phas­ing in the pen­sion shift. But he’s not sure how much ground state law­mak­ers will give.

“To try to make up that is go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult un­less we make some deep cuts,” Mr. Peters said.

O’mal­ley

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Pro­test­ers against Mary­land Gov. Martin O’mal­ley’s pro­posal to re­duce tax de­duc­tions for some home­own­ers demon­strate on the Lawyer’s Mall across from the State House on Wed­nes­day in An­napo­lis.

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