County Officials Continue Fight for Reform

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On the heels of the indictments of former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, D-Dist. 6, county officials continue to work towards reforming the government through several methods. Earlier this month, the county council announced measures, called 'good government reforms,' it hopes will create government Prince George’s residents can trust.

“This Council was sworn-in 92 days ago,” Councilwoman Ingrid Turner, D-Dist. 4, said in a statement. “On that day, each of us promised to improve OUR government. As Chair, I committed to lead a Council that would provide a more transparent government – one that empowers citizens and provides far-reaching levels of access never before available to the public. We committed to work in partnership with the County Executive to make a great county even Greater.”

The reforms already implemented include enhancing the county’s website to provide more information to residents, encouraging more public participation in council meetings, and supporting County Executive Rushern Baker’s creation of the Accountability Compliance and Integrity (ACI) Advisory Board.

The board, which has already had several meetings this year, has grown as Baker created two new positions, naming president and CEO of Educational Dimensions, W. Chris Stewart, and Associate Judge of the Orphans’ Court for Prince George’s County, Athena Malloy Groves to the board.

“I was happy to accommodate the Council’s recent request for additional appointees,” said Baker in a statement. “Ms. Stewart and Judge Groves’ diverse and professional backgrounds will further compliment the Board’s efforts and goals.”

These changes have not prevented controversies. After Baker appointed Eric C. Brown to head the troubled Department of Housing and Community Development, the Washington Post released a report saying Brown was suspended for submitting a grant application containing an unauthorized signature of the mayor while head of the housing authority in Meridian Miss.

At a March 22 council meeting, Ruth Wright, founder and president of Prince George’s Real Estate Professionals for Change, and Sandy Pruitt, leader for People for Change of Prince George’s County, asked the council to reject Brown’s appointment because of his past. Council members heard the feedback and say Brown will be vetted properly, but Baker believes Brown will do a fine job in the position.

“It was a priority of my administration to find the right leader to improve the service, reputation, and management of this department,” Baker said in a statement. “We have found an incredible and experienced housing expert in Eric Brown.”

County officials are working on other initiatives with the Prince George’s delegation in Annapolis, to create an executive director for the county board of ethics, the creation of a registration system for lobbyists, developers, and their associates, and legislation specifically making pay-to-play schemes illegal in the county.

Turner is adamant about cleaning the county up and hopes these measures will help to do that. “We believe these important measures will establish this Council’s blueprint for increasing transparency and good government,” Turner wrote. “We have worked collaboratively with our County Executive and our partners in the General Assembly. We are taking deliberate steps to lead County Government in the direction of being an even Greater County that all of us can be proud to call home.”