With pressure mounting from the community and high ranking officials, Leslie Johnson has resigned from the Prince George’s County Council effective July 31.

On July 5, Johnson provided a statement to the media through her attorney, Shawn Wright, explaining that it’s time for the residents in District 6 to move forward.

“After careful thought and consideration, I tendered my resignation this morning as a member of the Prince George’s County Council for District 6, effective July 31, 2011, the last day before August recess,” the statement said. “My resignation is important for the constituents of District 6, so that the district can be in the best position to continue to move forward. I again apologize for my mistake. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to serve the residents of District 6.”

Later that day, the council unanimously voted for an immediate resignation of Johnson. District 6 employees now report to the Council administrator and Johnson no longer has use of a county car, county parking, cell phone, grant funds and discretionary funds.

On June 30, Johnson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering stemming from a corruption case that targeted her husband, former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson. Despite her guilty plea, Leslie said she planned to continue her work on the council.

“I only asked not to be defined by this mistake, but by the countless days, months and years I have devoted to our community,” Johnson said after the court hearing. “I look forward to continuing to serve and making a positive difference in the lives of people in Prince George’s County.”

Her stance was quickly rebuked by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who said it was in the best interest of the county for her to gracefully bow out.

“It is critical for the residents of the 6th District to have consistent representation on the Prince George’s County Council,” Baker said in a statement. “It is my opinion that if Ms. Johnson resigned, the Prince George’s County Council’s summer recess could be utilized to prepare for the inevitable special election thus allowing the residents of the 6th District more immediate representation while minimizing the time that the seat would remain vacant.”

On Nov. 12, 2010, Jack Johnson was videotaped taking $15,000 in cash from developer and business partner Dr. Mirza Baig. Federal agents entered the room and seized the cash. As Jack Johnson drove home, he had a series of wiretapped conversations with Leslie as FBI and IRS agents showed up to their residence with a search warrant.

According to the indictment, audio recordings documented the couple discussing how they would hide evidence, including the ripping and flushing of a $100,000 check and Leslie hiding $79,600 in her underwear.

That cash was later found in her bra after federal agents searched Leslie.

Johnson would have had to resign upon sentencing, but staying on would allow her to keep collecting checks for the over $96,000 salary council members enjoy yearly.

Already, contenders are lining up to take Johnson’s place. Chairman of the board for the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund Derrick L. Davis, who finished second to Johnson in last year’s Democratic primary, told the AFRO that he will run in the special election. He said that he’d never stopped serving and it’s time for everyone in the county to “turn the page.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO