November 15, 2010

State Roundup, November 15, 2010

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ARRE STS OF PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY EXEC and HIS WIFE

MORE ARRESTS EXPECTED: The arrests Friday of Prince George’s County Exec Jack Johnson and his wife Leslie, newly elected to the County Council, suggest that a federal investigation of corruption in county government, long a subject of rumor and speculation, is reaching critical mass. Cheryl Thompson and Henri Cauvin of the Washington Post report the story.

The arrest of Prince George’s top political couple is expected to be just the beginning of a period of legal turmoil for the jurisdiction, which has been plagued with corruption allegations in recent years, writes Emily Babay of the Washington Examiner.

BACK TO WORK: Johnson is expected to head back to work today, reports ABC News Channel 7’s Brianne Carter, and incoming County Exec Rushern Baker, who has been silent on the issue, is expected to speak out today. Click on the video, provided by TBD.com.

SWEARING IN: Incoming Prince George’s council members  — including Leslie Johnson — are scheduled to be sworn in Dec. 6, David Leaderman reports for the Gazette. Her District 6 includes District Heights, Largo, Kettering, south Bowie, Mitchellville and greater Upper Marlboro.

THE JOHNSON ARREST: Here’s the initial arrest story from the Post‘s Paul Schwartzman, Ruben Castaneda and Cheryl Thompson. The charges include evidence tampering, reports Schwartzman, Castaneda and Thompson of the Post.

Jeff Clabaugh of the Washington Business Journal writes that the charges — which carry possible 20-year sentences — follow a two-year FBI and IRS investigation that involved wiretaps and informants.

Scott McCabe of the Washington Examiner reports that Johnson ordered his wife to flush to a $100,000 check down a toilet or stuff the evidence down her underwear. Here’s Jim McElhatton’s story on the arrests from the Washington Times. WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller offers a video report.

Here’s WTOP’s story on the arrest and the charges. At the bottom of the jump, you’ll find a video of the arrest. Here’s a page tear graphic in the Post of the Johnson transcript. And the Post created an interactive timeline leading to Johnson’s arrest.

BRA SALES: Annie Linskey of the Sun blogs some rather humorous comments about lingerie sales and Leslie Johnson’s bra.

PHOTO GALLERIES: The Post put together a photo gallery of the Johnsons, starting with the arrest and going back to 1995. And here’s the Gazette’s photo gallery of the arrest by Zoe Tillman and Christopher Anderson.

MONEY IN GROWTH: Money swirling around big development within Prince George’s has been a blessing, accompanied by the curse as Johnson and his wife discovered, writes the Post’s Miranda Spivack, Ovetta Wiggins and Carol Morello.

A POLARIZING FIGURE: Rosalind Helderman of the Post writes that Johnson was a polarizing figure in Prince George’s County.

REACTION: The arrests also left many who work in the multi-billion-dollar enterprise that is the Prince George’s government jarred and uncertain, reports Michael Laris and Miranda Spivack. The Post has reaction from others, including Gov. O’Malley.

Prince George’s residents are taking the arrests personally, reports Rosalind Helderman, Hamil Harris and Ashley Halsey of the Post.

One church’s message focuses on prayer for arrested county executive, while some are pushing to ease removal of elected leaders prior to being convicted of a crime, Liz Skalski reports for the Gazette.

Derek Valcourt of WJZ-TV reports that Baltimore County Del. Emmett Burns and his congregation at Rising Sun First Baptist Church spent part of Sunday in prayer for the couple at the center of the scandal.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com gets reaction from Prince George’s politicians. WBFF-TV interviews citizens for their reaction

Here’s an earlier AP story on WTOP, where PG Exec-elect Rushern Baker isn’t commenting on Johnson’s arrest of his predecessor, and Baker’s transition team says he is staying focused on residents’ concerns and his reform agenda.

ROBOCALLS, PENSIONS, TRANSITIONS and RACING

 

BACO GOES O’MALLEY: Gov. Martin O’Malley beat Bob Ehrlich in Ehrlich’s home county of Baltimore County, Arthur Hirsch blogs in the Sun.

ROBOCALLS AND EHRLICH: The Sun’s Dan Rodricks says that plausible deniability keeps a leader insulated from charges during illegal activity.

MORE ROBOCALLS: Robocalls also made news in Washington County, where two a victorious Republican county commissioner candidates say they were said she was asked to make the calls against a popular Democratic incumbent but refused, Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. Listen to the robocall below the photo on the right.

The Herald-Mail’s Tim Rowland ponders the question: If everyone is denying responsibility, whodunit?

STRAIGHT TALK: Opinionmakers at the Annapolis Capital say that in light of the state’s fiscal crisis, voters are owed straight talk by politicians.

FINANCE REFORM: Among topics under review by a bipartisan committee looking into state campaign finance reform are contribution limits, the functioning of multi-candidate groups known as slates, the role of limited liability corporations, loans to candidates, proper uses of donor money, disclosure requirements and new media, reports Julie Bykowicz of the Sun.

PENSION REFORM: A commission on public employees and retirees benefits will hear what employee groups, unions and the general public think about possible changes to retirement benefits this afternoon, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com. Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner reports that the chief budget analysts are saying that Maryland no longer can afford its generous pension packages for state employees and teachers. Liam Farrell of the Annapolis Capital reports that O’Malley said pension reform is likely to be “front and center” in the legislative session beginning in January.

AA PENSIONS: Erin Cox of the Capital reports that Anne Arundel County is struggling with its own pension issues.

CON-CON: Even though the constitutional convention issue did not receive the support of a majority of all voters on Election Day, constitutional convention advocate and president of iSolon.org J.H. Snider writes in a Washington Post editorial that Gov. Martin O’Malley should give the 54 percent of people who voted on the question the convention they want.

STEELE SENSE: Let me get this straight, writes the Sun’s Peter Jensen: The party that lost the mid-term elections by historic proportions is likely to keep most of its congressional leadership team in place while the side that won wants to oust its party chairman, our former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. How does that make sense?

ELECTION PROBE SOUGHT: The Anne Arundel County judge who lost his post in the Nov. 2 election has alleged that the Republican challenger who beat him might have violated election laws, Andrea Siegal reports for the Sun.

ELECTED, UNOFFICIALLY: Beau Oglesby is the unofficial state’s attorney-elect for Worcester County and Jim Mathias is the unofficial state senator-elect for District 38 after the third canvass of absentee votes was held Friday, Jennifer Shutt writes for the Salisbury Daily Times.

YOUNG DYNASTY: Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post reports that members of the Young political dynasty don’t forsee ethical problems in their new roles.

BERNSTEIN TRANSITION: Newly elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein is interviewed in this Daily Record video concerning his transition and his goals.

RAWLINGS FOES: With 10 months to go, challengers to Baltimore city Mayor Stephanie Blake-Rawlings’ seat are emerging, Julie Scharper reports for the Sun.

ON VACATION: Baltimore County Executive-elect Kevin Kamenetz has dropped out of sight, taking a hard-earned vacation before he is sworn in, reports Steve Schuster of Patuxent Publishing.

SLOTS LAWS: Maryland legislators are planning big changes to the state’s slots law, Nicole Fuller reports for the Sun.

ROCKY SLOTS: The Sun’s opinionmakers say that failure to find a developer willing to bring slot machines to the Western Maryland resort suggests more tinkering is required.

STRONACH TAKES OVER: Embroiled in controversy surrounding the fate of Maryland horse racing, the head of the company that owns the Laurel Park and Pimlico race tracks resigned and was replaced by chairman Frank Stronach, reports Daniel Sernovitz of the Baltimore Business Journal.

BRAC DEVELOPING: Harford County is creating a commission to help developers who are having a hard time securing financing for Base Realignment and Closure-related housing projects, Rachel Bernstein of the BBJ writes.

BAY TRUST MESSAGING: The Chesapeake Bay Trust is working on getting its message out after a poll found that many Marylanders — including the 300,000 people who paid extra for Save The Bay license plates — don’t know what it is and what it does, Barbara Pash reports for MarylandReporter.com.

ACCOLADES FOR MARYLANDREPORTER.COM: Editor Len Lazarick picked up a first-place beat reporting “Cappie” award over the weekend from Capitolbeat, the national Association for Capitol Reporters and Editors.