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Posted at 1:10 PM ET, 03/11/2011

Prince George's legislative delegation approves ethics package

By Miranda S. Spivack

The Prince George's House delegation Friday took a key vote in support of an ethics package that would limit the County Council's review of development deals, ban credit cards for county employees, and strengthen the county's ethics commission.

The measure, which reflects a compromise between County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and the County Council, was approved on a voice vote but could still be amended next week.

A similar bill was approved earlier this month in the county's state Senate delegation. Separate bills to restrict developers' political contributions still await county House members' action.

The action comes as former Prince George's county executive Jack Johnson faces federal corruption charges.

A 31-page indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt alleges that Johnson traded business permits, millions in grant funding and other favors for airline tickets, rounds of golf and about $200,000 in cash. He has denied wrongdoing.

Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George's), who chairs the panel that brought the bill to the full delegation, said the measure offers developers and residents a firm timetable for council review and creates more transparency, while still allowing residents and council members to press developers for community amenities and concessions.

The bill gives the County Council a maximum of 205 days to review and alter decisions by the county's planning commission, whose five members are appointed by the county executive. Initially, Baker wanted to strip the council of any review power over developments approved by the planning commission.

A separate ethics review panel he appointed, chaired by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke (D), is conducting an examination of county ethics policies.

Lisa Jackson, Baker's chief lobbyist in Annapolis, told the delegation the bill "is a very meaningful step."

"We worked really long and hard and we focused on fixing a piece of the process that was essentially open for abuse," she said. "We really moved the ball forward."

Amendments are still likely from Del. Barbara Frush (D-Prince George's) and Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George's), both of whom said Friday the ethics provisions could be further strengthened, and are making proposals that more closely mirror Baker's original plan.

By Miranda S. Spivack  | March 11, 2011; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Miranda Spivack, Prince George's County  
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