New Pr. George's Council member willing to allow Leslie Johnson to be seated
Incoming Prince George's County Council member Karen Toles (D) has broken her silence over the arrests of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife, Leslie Johnson (D), newly elected to the council, and apparently is willing to allow Leslie Johnson to be sworn in Monday, along with incoming County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and eight other council members.
The Johnsons were arrested Nov. 12 on charges of witness tampering and destruction of evidence. According to the FBI, the couple, both lawyers, were overheard on a wiretap plotting to destroy a $100,000 check from a developer and stuff $79,600 in cash in Leslie Johnson's bra, as federal agents waited on the couple's Mitchellville doorstep.
Leslie Johnson's arrival at the council would break a deadlock for the council chairmanship for the candidate Toles is said to be backing -- Ingrid Turner.
Toles, elected Nov. 2 to succeed Camille Exum (D), who was barred by term limits from seeking a third term, had been widely viewed by her colleagues as unwilling to ask Leslie Johnson to step aside, so her remarks Tuesday are not a surprise.
Toles said in her statement that she would "refrain from judgment and will defer to the judicial system." From that, it appears that she thinks that Johnson should take her seat unless Johnson is convicted of a felony, which is grounds for removal from the nine-member panel.
Five other council members -- Will Campos, Mel Franklin, Andrea Harrison, Mary Lehman and Eric Olson -- have said that while they believe in the presumption of innocence, Leslie Johnson should not take her seat. Harrison has not publicly addressed the issue, but has privately told colleagues that she would prefer that Leslie Johnson step aside.
Toles declined repeated requests for an interview.
In her statement Toles declined to directly discuss either the Johnson arrests or council deliberations for the chairmanship. At the moment, Leslie Johnson is said to hold the key fifth vote in the leadership race, backing Turner, whom Toles, Campos and Obie Patterson also are backing. On the other side is council Vice Chairman Andrea Harrison (D), who has the support of Franklin, Lehman and Olson. All are Democrats.
The text of Toles's statement is below:
I am very troubled and deeply hurt by the allegations of corruption in Prince George's County. In response to the inquiries as to whether I support the swearing in of Councilwoman-elect Leslie Johnson, after deep thought and consideration, I must refrain from judgment and will defer to the judicial system as the appropriate trier of law and of fact. It is imperative that we allow our judicial system to deliberate on the facts in this case and to make a determination as to any wrongdoing. Therefore, until this legal matter is resolved, I will refrain from judgment and any comment on the matter.
Additionally, because I have the utmost respect for the privacy of my fellow colleagues and my sincere desire to maintain the dignity of the process, I am refraining from discussing my deliberation as to the Prince George's County Council leadership. The breach of this process would allow outside disruptions that would not be in the best interest of our County.
I am deeply honored that the citizens of District 7 have bestowed upon me the tremendous responsibility that this position demands. I remain deeply committed to serving the citizens and residents of District 7 and all of Prince George's County with the utmost dignity, high moral ethics and respect.
I pray that we can move forward and focus on shedding a positive light on this great County.
Miranda S. Spivack
| November 30, 2010; 3:26 PM ET
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