The Prince George’s County Council has capped a turbulent year. It saw several council members make their debut with one having her term cut short because of legal troubles.

The controversial CB-18 introduced in October by Councilwoman Karen Toles, D.-Dist. 7, designed to bring more safety and accountability to the county’s nightclubs, ruffled the feathers of some club owners, but brought peace of mind to residents and police officers who have to deal with violence that sometimes occurs as a result of what happens inside those venues.

In August, after a double shooting outside Music Sports and Games Bar and Café in Capitol Heights, the council moved swiftly to pass the law. “We cannot continue to lose lives in Prince George’s County as it relates to these establishments,” Toles said.

“I want to commend the Prince George’s County Police Department, our state’s attorney’s office as well as the Department of Environmental Resources for their swift action in ensuring that this establishment does get shut down because of the criminal activity.”

The council also passed Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund which will go toward enticing businesses to Prince George’s County as well as passing legislation requiring contractors to use project labor agreements on county construction projects over $1 million.

There were tougher decisions as well, when one of its members was entangled in a bribery and corruption case. On June 30, Prince George’s Councilwoman Leslie Johnson pled guilty to evidence tampering stemming from the case that also involved her husband, former County Executive Jack Johnson. Five days after the plea, Johnson announced she would resign at the end of June. Council Chairwoman Ingrid Turner, D.-Dist. 4, called for Johnson to step down and revoked all the privileges Johnson enjoyed as a councilmember.

“This morning Leslie Johnson formally submitted her letter of resignation from the Prince George’s County Council effective July 31, 2011,” Turner said in a statement.

“However, the Prince George’s County Council, as a body, calls for the immediate resignation of Leslie Johnson.

“In order to continue to provide services to the citizens and residents of District 6, district staff salaries will continue to be funded; however, effective immediately, District 6 employees will report directly to the Council Administrator,” she continued.

That saga was brought to a close earlier this month when Derrick L. Davis was sworn in after winning the special election to replace Johnson. That day, Davis pointed towards the future and how the county could move past the black eye of having a sitting councilwoman having to be removed from her position.

“This day is about our future — about how we keep working, growing and progressing together,” Davis said at his swearing-in ceremony, “how we invest in Prince George’s County and in each other. It’s about what unites us and moves us forward.” 

Finally, the council closed its 2011 session by choosing not to decide whether slots should be allowed in the county, instead asking the General Assembly to set a statewide referendum on the issue.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO