More pressure on Leslie Johnson
Prince George's County council member Will Campos (D) has become the fifth county legislator to urge Leslie Johnson to give up her just-won seat on the nine-member panel because of the corruption charges she is facing.
"Clearly you don't want to accuse anybody before they have due process, but on the basics alone, this does not look good, not just for the council but for the county in general," Campos said.
Johnson and her husband, outgoing County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), were arrested Nov. 12 on charges of evidence tampering and destruction of evidence. The Johnsons were overheard via federal wiretap plotting to get rid of a $100,000 check from a developer and stash $79,600 in Leslie Johnson's bra.
Campos joins council members Mel Franklin, Andrea Harrison, Mary Lehman and Eric Olson in a coalition opposing Johnson.
"There have been unfortunate events in the history of the county and this is just not helping at all. We are trying to enhance our image as opposed to potentially damaging it even more," Campos said. "I think that this is something that at minimum, should be requested."
Short of persuading the newly elected lawmaker to step aside, the council has little legal clout in the matter. Nothing in the county charter or state law prevents Johnson from taking her seat. If she does decide to serve, her council colleagues could limit her influence by denying her staff, committee assignments and other perquisites of the office, according to informal legal advice recently provided to the council.
Maryland does not have a recall law, and the Prince George's County charter bars council members from holding office only if they are physically or mentally unable to serve. A felony convicted would also force a council member to give up his or her seat.
If Johnson does not join the council, the panel would be deadlocked 4-4 in a leadership battle for council chairman between Ingrid Turner (D), who had Johnson's backing, and Andrea Harrison (D). Campos, who wants to be vice-chairman on Turner ticket, said he realized that by urging Johnson to step aside he was giving up that coalition's majority in the leadership fight.
"The important thing is the county first," he said. "I would not want the council to take any hits."
| November 24, 2010; 8:05 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections, Prince George's County
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