Ex-liquor board director admits tipping off those in bribery scheme to FBI probe

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Former Maryland delegate Michael L. Vaughn, on right, is accused of accepting more than $100,000 from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable votes on liquor-related legislation and is awaiting trial. Here, Vaughn and his attorney William Purpura leave a courthouse in March. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

The former director of the Prince George’s County liquor board pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday in a wide-reaching bribery scandal, admitting he facilitated thousands of dollars in payouts to elected officials and eventually tried to undermine an FBI investigation while he was wired as an informant.

David Dae Sok Son, 41, of Bowie entered guilty pleas on counts of bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., in a case involving elected officials, lobbyists and shop owners trying to expand liquor sales in Prince George’s.

Son, who was also a commissioner of the Prince George’s liquor board from 2005 to 2014, acted as a middle man between liquor store owners and elected officials to influence state legislation related to Sunday liquor sales, the government said.

When the FBI questioned Son in December, he then tried to tip off people being investigated about the probe, prosecutors said.

Son also told a restaurant manager in Beltsville who had agreed to pay a $50,000 bribe for a liquor license that the authorities were investigating the manager.

“Son pulled the manager into the walk-in cooler so the two could talk privately,” according to Son’s plea agreement. “Son told the manager that the ‘Feds’ were watching the manager and the manager should ‘skip town.’ ”

The manager — who had paid roughly $40,000 in bribes — subsequently left the country, prosecutors said.

In a handwritten letter to someone else being investigated by the FBI, Son told the person that he had been “taken” by the “Feds” and was “wired” during a previous conversation. In the letter, Son also detailed who the FBI was monitoring and listed those who were cooperating with authorities.

Son is one of eight people charged in the federal probe.

Former Prince George’s County Council member and Maryland delegate William A. Campos (D-Pr. George’s) is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to accepting $40,000 to $50,000 in kickbacks in exchange for official favors. Former delegate Michael L. Vaughn (D-Pr. George’s) is accused of accepting more than $100,000 from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable votes on liquor-related legislation. He is awaiting trial.

Authorities accused Son of being involved with several bribes of $1,000 to $5,000 each from 2012 to 2015 to Campos and Vaughn.

Payouts occurred in the men’s room at a restaurant and the parking lot of a shopping center, according to the plea agreement. During one lunch, Son told Campos that a liquor store owner was “going to hook you up.” Campos then received an envelope with $4,000 cash in the restroom of a restaurant to ensure liquor store owners and a lobbyist funding the bribe would receive Sunday liquor sales licenses, the plea agreement said.

The following month, Son connected Vaughn with liquor store owners, who said they’d pay as much as $50,000 for legislation that would benefit their sales, prosecutors said. Vaughn later agreed to introduce related legislation and then received a $4,000 payment facilitated by Son, prosecutors said.

Son faces up to 35 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

An attorney for Son could not be immediately reached for comment.

Others arrested in the federal investigation include: Matthew Gorman, a Hyattsville liquor lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing a state legislator; Felix Nelson Ayala, a Rockville accountant who pleaded guilty to bribing Campos in exchange for government funding; Anuj Sud, a former county liquor board commissioner accused of taking money in exchange for favorable votes; and Young Jung Paig and Shin Ja Lee, liquor store owners accused of funding bribes to Campos and Vaughn.

Gorman, Campos, Paig, Lee and Ayala are awaiting sentencing. Vaughn and Sud are awaiting trial.

via Washington Post

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PGCPS teachers stage protest against Baker during Maryland State convention

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Rushern Baker is one of eight Democratic candidates in the race for Maryland governor. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Dozens of Prince George’s County teachers walked out in protest when County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) was introduced to address the Maryland State Education Association at its annual convention.

Theresa Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County Education Association, said the protest on Friday afternoon was in response to an ongoing wage dispute with county leadership.

“We weren’t going to listen to his garbage,” Dudley said, adding that the group voted Friday morning to take the action.

Andrew Mallinoff, Baker’s campaign manager, said the county executive respects the teachers’ union right to protest but he “is not their enemy.”

The disruption came as Betty Weller, president of MSEA, introduced Baker to address the crowd. Baker and the seven other Democratic candidates for Maryland governor, who are seeking the MSEA’s endorsement, were given an opportunity during the two-day convention to answer questions from members of the union.

“What a way to start off,” said Baker, who has received high marks in recent polls looking at the 2018 gubernatorial race. Weller quickly turned back to the program without acknowledging the disruption.

Dudley said members of the local union are upset that Baker has not provided back pay increases to them like, she said, he promised.

She alleged that Baker told the union in 2012 that if it supported the county’s plan to bring the MGM Casino to National Harbor, he would ensure that teachers who were behind on their pay increases would receive the money.

“You have to make people whole,” she said.

Mallinoff declined to respond specifically to the charges by Dudley, describing it as “ local politics. It doesn’t reflect Baker’s commitment to education.” He said Baker has called for raising “the bar on education and pushing people to rise to a new level. Whenever you do that there is going to be tension.

Friday’s protest is not the first time Baker has been at odds with the county teachers union.

The union vehemently opposed Baker’s plan in 2013 to take over the school system by appointing a new superintendent to his Cabinet and assuming authority over the school system’s budget. The state legislature approved a watered-down version of Baker’s proposal, giving the county executive power to appoint the superintendent, now known as the chief executive officer, to select the board chairman and vice chairman and appoint several members to the school board.

via Washington Post

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Fewer employees on leave for alleged abuse or neglect in Md. school system

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Prince George’s County Public Schools chief executive Kevin Maxwell speaks in 2016 about a sex abuse case. School officials say fewer employees are on administrative leave this school year for alleged abuse or neglect of students. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Officials in a Maryland school system that placed hundreds of employees on leave amid allegations of abuse and neglect say they have improved training and procedures this year to strike a better balance between protecting students and keeping staffers on the job.

Forty employees were on administrative leave as of early October in Prince George’s County public schools, officials said Thursday, and just five cases have originated this school year.

The school system drew a wave of complaints from parents, educators and elected officials last year as the number of such cases soared, with nearly 850 employees — including more than 400 teachers — placed on leave for alleged misconduct in the 2016-2017 school year.

The surge reflected a jump of more than 1,000 percent from 2014-2015, the year before Prince George’s was roiled by child abuse scandals and stepped up its emphasis on reporting of suspicious behavior.

While many lauded efforts to boost safety, they also complained that the district went overboard and did not distinguish between serious and lesser claims. Many teachers were out of classrooms for weeks or months; parents and students did not know when they would return, and some said classroom instruction was compromised.

This year, officials said they believe the school system — Maryland’s second-largest, with more than 132,000 students — is showing signs of turning a corner.

“We’re trending down and back to what it looked like more than a year ago,” said Lewis Robinson, director of employee and labor relations for the school system.

He and others say the district has added three administrative procedures and revised six. New online training was completed by more than 90 percent of staffers. There is also a new employee-incident tracking system.

Principals were trained over the summer in new practices and about which situations warrant placing employees on administrative leave, he said.

“Some of it is about making sure people know what they are looking at,” Robinson said. He noted that last year, employees were sent off the job for accidentally bumping into students and in one instance, despite video recordings to the contrary, allegedly slamming a student’s hand in a locker and, in another, hitting a student with a hat.

This year, there is a longer process for considering the use of administrative leave. Employees will be steered to alternative placements for a period that could be a week or longer while principals and district administrators consider sending them on leave.

Employees who are awaiting such a determination may be involved in grading, lesson planning or other activities that support the learning process without placing those employees in contact with students, officials said.

The school system is not discouraging the reporting of suspicious incidents to Child Protective Services but will not automatically place employees on administrative leave as a result of suspicious-incident reports, they said.

As the school year started, the number of reports to Child Protective Services involving allegations against staffers has dwindled considerably: There were 31 this year, compared with last year’s 152, for the month of September.

For the first month of the Prince George’s County school year, which started Sept. 6, five employees — including three teachers — were placed on leave for alleged abuse, neglect or failure to report, district data showed. The district did not immediately have a comparison figure from last year.

“The idea behind it is to be more thoughtful at the initiation point,” Robinson said.

The new policies were the focus of a school board presentation Thursday evening.

“We remain committed to improving school and student safety while providing a positive workplace climate for our employees,” Kevin M. Maxwell, the district’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Employee conduct has been a flash point since February 2016, when Deonte Carraway, then an elementary school volunteer, was accused of video-recording students as he directed them to perform sex acts. Carraway, who previously had been a paid classroom aide, was sentenced last month to 100 years in prison on 23 counts of child sex abuse and pornography involving 23 children.

Following Carraway’s arrest in 2016, a student safety task force was appointed, and the school system looked to change what many saw as a culture of underreporting.

Robinson said the school system is not looking to reduce the number of employees on leave to the level that preceded the safety efforts. But the school system wants to come in far below last year’s high number. “We underreported in the year before, and we want to get somewhere in the middle,” he said.

via Washington Post

OPINION

The union members themselves should be crucifying their leadership in the news for these many violations. The news organizations around here should be digging deeper to get the stories correct and expose the situation for better communities.  This will help expose how teachers, administrators and other school-based personnel have no one fighting for them in this county.

On another note, How about discharging the administrators who have cost the county schools millions of dollars who were pulling employees off the job and sending them home with or without pay when there was little/no reason to believe the employees had done anything remotely bad enough to warrant being put on leave?

According to the post above,  “He noted that last year, employees were sent off the job for accidentally bumping into students and in one instance, despite video recordings to the contrary, allegedly slamming a student’s hand in a locker and, in another, hitting a student with a hat.”

Were there any charges against the students and/or adults that made the false accusations of physical abuse? If there are video recordings, it would likely be easy to prove that these people were purposely lying. There really are people out there including administrators some in Human Resources that would make false accusations in order to get someone in trouble.

Also, this makes the case for cameras in the classrooms. These teachers were “lucky” that these incidents occurred where cameras were located. What about teachers and other staff that are falsely accused in areas without cameras? If people are worried about privacy, there could be a law that the recordings are only viewed if child abuse allegations are made.

How about what is probably several million dollars that PG wasted paying salaries to employees on leave when there was no reason for the employees to have been put on leave?

How about the damage to the students’ education from putting 800 substitute teachers or more into classrooms for sometimes months at a time?

Gutless? Stupid? Both? What were these PG administrators thinking? Is this issue going to continue unless addressed to include outside agencies including Prince George’s County Community college and others involved in cover ups? possibly yes!

Read more >>> Maryland delegate Dereck E. Davis must resign over corruption in the county schools. 

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There is no difference in what third world countries are doing to their citizens for peaceful demonstrations and in Prince George’s County high tech harassment using white collar violations for years.

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GOOD NEWS! Value-Added Measures (VAM) for Teachers Is Dead in Houston!

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Spring Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson speaks during a meeting with parents and teachers on Spring ISD’s scheduling and transcript management practices, at Dekaney High School.

After a long court fight in Houston, the school district agreed not to use value-added scores to evaluate teachers, because it was unable to explain what the algorithms for evaluating teacher performance meant or how they were calculated. The district also agreed to pay the lawyers’ fees for the Texas AFT, which fought the use of VAM.

What is the purpose of unions? To fight for the rights of teachers. No individual teacher (unless married to a lawyer) could have pursued this remedy on his or her own. The union had the resources to protect teachers from an unfair, nonsensical, illegitimate way of evaluating their teaching.

By the way, the courts in Houston were a lot wiser than the courts in Florida, which upheld the practice of evaluating teachers based on the test scores of students they do not teach in subjects they do not teach. The court in Florida said it was “unfair,” but constitutional. How can it be constitutional to have your teaching license depend on the work that others do, in which you have no part at all?Maryland+State+Board+of+Education+Office+Seal

Maryland Epicenter for Corruption. 

In Maryland, the situation is a bit different with families in the receiving end.  The State and Federal courts are engaged in major cover ups driven by special interest in which Maryland citizens, teachers themselves, other staff, students and their families are in the receiving end due to public corruption driven by widespread fraud.

It is now clear that the same criminal enterprise that perpetuated the fraud in the Prince George’s County for many years in Maryland for personal gain is firmly in charge of the various institutions and setting up even more lethal mechanisms to defraud the American voter. The Prince George’s County and Baltimore city are the epicenter and Maryland Governor was made aware a long time ago.

Once the unions pay off corrupt elected officials in Maryland, it is a usual cover up through the system in which Attorneys hired by teachers and staff are bribed in a clear case of misconduct and unfairness to the system as well as the wider population. In the next few weeks, we will be engaging (you) the public and the teachers themselves to get involved for your own good to create accountability.

We are also requesting new leaders—participants to raise up and take the challenge to run for public offices within the state.  There is need to initiate grassroots work and collaborative projects with proper  scope and objectives to fight corruption from grounds up. These civic and local community projects ought to be launched across Maryland to include the Sunday Reset Project, a monthly event to promote healthful living.

Enough is enough.

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For Immediate Release
October 10, 2017

Contact:
Zeph Capo
713-623-8891
zcapo@hft2415.org

Janet Bass
202-879-4554
jbass@aft.org

Federal Suit Settlement: End of Value-Added Measures
for Teacher Termination in Houston

HOUSTON—In a huge victory for the right of teachers to be fairly evaluated, the Houston Independent School District agreed, in a settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by seven Houston teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers, not to use value-added scores to terminate a teacher as long as the teacher is unable to independently test or challenge the score.

Value-added measures for teacher evaluation, called the Education Value-Added Assessment System, or EVAAS, in Houston, is a statistical method that uses a student’s performance on prior standardized tests to predict academic growth in the current year. This methodology—derided as deeply flawed, unfair and incomprehensible—was used to make decisions about teacher evaluation, bonuses and termination. It uses a secret computer program based on an inexplicable algorithm: = + (Σ∗≤Σ∗∗ × ∗∗∗∗=1)+ .

In May 2014, seven Houston teachers and the Houston Federation of Teachers brought an unprecedented federal lawsuit to end the policy, saying it reduced education to a test score, didn’t help improve teaching or learning, and ruined teachers’ careers when they were incorrectly terminated. Neither HISD nor its contractor allowed teachers access to the data or computer algorithms so that they could test or challenge the legitimacy of the scores, creating a “black box.” In May 2017, the federal district court in Houston issued a decision stating that, “HISD teachers have no meaningful way to ensure correct calculation of their EVAAS scores, and as a result are unfairly subject to mistaken deprivation of constitutionally protected property interests in their jobs.”

HFT President Zeph Capo said: “This victory should mark the end of a destructive era that put tests and a broken evaluation system over making sure our students leave school well prepared for college, career and life. As a practical matter, this ends the use of value-added to terminate teachers in HISD because the district does not have a contractor that is willing or able to meet the constitutional due process standards spelled out by the court.”

Daniel Santos, one of the plaintiffs and an award-winning sixth-grade teacher at Navarro Middle School who was rated ineffective by the flawed EVAAS method, was elated with the settlement.

“I have always been devoted to my students and proud of my teaching skills. Houston needs a well-developed system that properly evaluates teachers, provides good feedback and ensures that educators will receive continuous, targeted professional development to improve their performance,” Santos said.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the agreement not to use value-added measures for this purpose is the latest nail in the coffin of using tests as a punitive tool. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, eliminated the emphasis on test scores.

“Testing and EVAAS don’t measure critical or analytical thinking skills, don’t allow for engaging learning, and certainly don’t improve or create joy in teaching or learning. Instead of value-added methods, let’s value what kids really need: attention to their well-being, engaging and powerful learning, a collaborative school environment, and opportunities for teachers to build their skills throughout their careers,” Weingarten said.

In addition to agreeing to restrict its use of value-added measures, including EVAAS scores, the school district agreed to create an instructional consultation panel—with representatives from the district and the faculty—to discuss and make recommendations on the district’s teacher appraisal process. The settlement also requires HISD to pay Texas AFT $237,000 for attorney’s fees and expenses related to the lawsuit.

Here is the amended summary judgment opinion.

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Pastor La Sonya Sammons speaks on behalf of her daughter Kierra Sammons who is a senior at Dekaney High School, during a meeting with Spring Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson on Spring ISD’s scheduling and transcript management practices, at Dekaney High School

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2 confirmed cases of tuberculosis at PGCPS high school

IMG_1667UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – Two people at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, according to school officials.

Prince George’s County Public Schools say the two confirmed cases of the bacterial infection are being treated, and other students and staff are not at risk of additional exposure.

The school system did not say if the affected individuals were students or staff members.

“Although the risk of exposure is small, we are working with our health professionals to offer TB screening out of an abundance of caution,” said Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell.

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that usually attacks the lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the disease include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or phlegm, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and sweating at night.

Prince George’s County health officials say it normally takes at least eight hours of close contact in a small room for tuberculosis to be passed on to others, and it cannot be contracted from shorter exposure periods such as passing a person in a hallway or sitting in a cafeteria for an hour.

“The Health Department and PGCPS prioritize the health and safety of all students, staff, and parents,” said Prince George’s County health officer Pamela Creekmur. “We are working expeditiously to provide information, screening, and any additional follow up to maintain the health and wellness of the Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School community.”

via Fox 5 DC

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PG County woman killed in Miami Beach police-involved shooting

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22-year-old Cariann Denise Hithon, of Bowie, Maryland

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A Prince George’s County young woman was fatally shot by police in Florida after she struck and injured an officer, police said.

According to the Miami Beach Police Department, 22-year-old Cariann Denise Hithon, of Bowie, Maryland, was driving a black BMW vehicle Sunday evening when it crashed into another vehicle on 12th Street and Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. Investigators said Hithon fled the scene afterwards and hit another vehicle on Lincoln Drive. She then fled from this accident and struck a uniformed police officer, causing the officer to be thrown in the air.

Police said another officer at the scene fired his service weapon hitting Hithon. She continued to travel on 12th Street after the shooting and came to a complete stop after hitting another parked vehicle.

The Prince George’s County woman was taken to the hospital where she died from her injuries. The injured officer was also transported to the hospital and was in stable condition.

A passenger in Hithon’s car was detained by police for questioning, according to police.

Hithon was a student at Temple University. According to the university’s Student Government Facebook page,  she was pursuing a political science degree. Miami-Dade County police are continuing to investigate the shooting. They have not yet released the name of the officer who shot Hithon, but they confirmed she was killed. MDPD said Hithon’s birthday was last Thursday, October 5, and her father confirmed to NBC 6 that she was in South Beach to celebrate turning 22.

According to Hithon’s Linkedin profile, she was also studying African and Greek Philosophy. Her profile shows that she participated in a summer legal internship in Prince George’s County and that she attended Hampton University from 2013 to earlier this year.

Ms. Hithon is said to have been a very charming and outgoing young woman, May her soul rest in eternal peace.

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Donna Edwards Declares For Prince George’s County Executive

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Former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards is running to become the next executive for Prince George’s County executive

Former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards is running to become the next executive for Prince George’s County executive. Edwards represented Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties in from 2008-2017. She left that job to run for Senate last year, but lost that race to Chris Van Hollen in an organized scheme which saw all male team interconnected to each other get elected to congress without any women representation unlike previous years. Now she is returning to the local political scene.

“In some ways I feel like this is a return home, taking the skills I learned in the non-profit sector, what I learned in Congress, and then appling those to some of the challenges that we face in the county,” Edwards said at a press conference announcing her decision.

Edwards sees two big challenges facing Prince George’s County: improving the school system and growing the local economy. She says the two issues are connected. According to Edwards, better schools will lead to better jobs which will lead to more companies setting up shop in the county.

In the Democratic primary, Edwards will square off against Angela Alsobrooks — the county’s top prosecutor — and state senator Anthony Muse. The current county executive, Rushern Baker, is running for governor after causing major damages in the county after an organized scheme which has been running for sometimes now.

“If Mr. Baker becomes governor, God help us, Maryland will be in a lot of trouble”, declared one parent at Largo. Under his leadership in Prince George’s County, school board has been under investigation, nepotism has been a major problem and the students are not doing so well.

Edwards is a well-known progressive on the national scene and was backed by politically powerful groups like Emily’s List in her senate bid. An important question for her candidacy is how well that national support and recognition will translate to the local level. In many ways she has been of major support in advocating for transparency and accountability within the schools.

The entrance of Edwards into the race could force a hard choice for voters in Prince George’s County; both women in the race for county Executive are African American, have strong name recognition and are popular among county residents.

Also in the running for the office of county executive are former Obama administration official Paul Monteiro and Maryland State Senator Anthony Muse who has strong backing from church groups in Southern and Central Prince George’s County.

I’ve fought for our community and our values for years as a non-profit leader, organizer, and member of Congress, but now I want to take that work to the next level here at home in Prince George’s as your next County Executive.

There is so much we can do together in our local communities to ensure government is transparent and accountable, our economy is growing in a way that benefits everyone, and our schools are getting the funding they need. ~ Donna Edwards

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