Once again, the town of Forest Heights has disciplined its chief executive over improprieties in office. According to reports, Mayor Andrea McCutcheon has been accused of spending town funding without council approval.

The suspension comes at a pressing time for the small town hugging the Prince George’s-District of Columbia line, which is already dealing with a myriad of issues.
Forest Heights is one of the communities stricken by the violence that plagued the county during the first half of January. Terrance Calvin Hunter, 30, was shot and killed at Southview Apartments on Jan. 5.

Someone has been arrested in that case, but Forest Heights Police Chief Lt. Frank R. Webb has recently had to warn residents of a rise in auto thefts and police impersonators in the community.

Residents are also up in arms over speed cameras installed in the town. Many took the municipal government to task over the cameras, but officials said it was necessary for safer travel.

When the cameras were initially installed early last summer, the number of citations issued peaked at about 1,500 per week, but decreased to about 1,000 in mid-July. McCutcheon, who said the cameras generated an estimated $1 million in revenue, said the cameras were for the safety of people trying to cross the busy Indian Head Highway.

“This statistic shows that Operation Get Home Safe is effective in getting drivers to slow down and in promoting public safety in town,” said McCutcheon in a statement.

McCutcheon’s issues make this three of the last four town mayors to be disciplined and the second time over the misuse of funds. In 2006, former mayor Myles Spires’ was suspended from September through December over allegations that he misused funds. As a result, the town changed its charter so that mayoral terms were limited to two years.

Spires was cleared of the charges but filed suit against the town in June 2009. The case was thrown out last July.

Spires’ predecessor, Joyce Beck was voted out by the town council for allegedly assaulting a police officer. Those charges were later dropped, but after nasty confrontations with the council, a charter amendment was enacted removing Beck from office.

“Be it further resolved that the current mayor, Joyce A. Beck, is hereby advised and ordered to surrender all property belonging to the Town of Forest Heights and to remove her person, personal effects, and gear from the Forest Heights Town Hall administrative/official areas not later than 11:59:59 p.m. on January 5, 2006; and be it further resolved that non-compliance with this resolution shall be deemed a misdemeanor and may be subject to forfeiture of property, arrest, 30 days in prison and a fine not to exceed $1,000.00,” the amendment said.

McCutcheon was named mayor on Mar. 11, 2009 and her two-year term ends this March. She’s still eligible for a re-election bid.

A final hearing has been set for Feb. 3.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO