Tag Archives: County Council

Progressive group calls on Prince George’s council member charged with DUI to resign

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Prince George’s councilmember Jamel Ramon “Mel” Franklin was charged with driving under the influence.

WASHINGTON — A local progressive political group is calling for the resignation of Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin after his arrest last week on drunken driving charges.

 Jennifer Dwyer, the organizer with the Prince George’s County chapter of Progressive Maryland, said the arrest and the slew of charges Franklin is facing — including driving under the influence, driving while impaired, negligent driving and failure to avoid a crash — raise questions about his ability to do his job “and whether or not Councilman Franklin can continue to represent his constituents appropriately.”
Franklin is accused of crashing into a Mercedes stopped at a traffic light at Route 4 and Dower House Road near Forestville last week Nov. 21. According to Maryland State Police, Franklin was found outside the vehicle some distance from the crash site.
 Dwyer said her group’s concerns come not only as a result of the November crash, but also reports that Franklin had been involved in other crashes involving county cars.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Franklin was involved in two previous crashes while driving county-issued vehicles: one in October of 2012 that resulted in $1,500 in damage and a second in December of the same year in which the county vehicle was totaled.

In that crash which was not reported to the public, Franklin reportedly slammed into a Yukon GMC. The Post reported that crash was the result of distracted driving and that Franklin was changing the radio station in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Franklin was not cited in the incident.

Franklin has been stripped of his access to county vehicles.

 It’s not the first time a county council member has had that perk taken away. In 2011, then-Prince George’s County council member Leslie Johnson was forced to surrender her county car after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and evidence tampering in a federal case tied to the corruption case surrounding her husband, former County Executive Jack Johnson.

In 2012, Council member Karen Toles, facing a charge of reckless driving, offered to surrender her access to county vehicles until she completed a “driver improvement course.” Instead, the council acted to bar her access to county vehicles according to a council statement “for her safety and the safety of others.”

via WTOP

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Md. politician Mel Franklin has wrecked a government vehicle before

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Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) was charged with driving under the influence in an injury crash on Nov. 21. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

By Arelis R. Hernández December 1 at 7:22 PM

Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin, who was charged with driving under the influence last week in a crash that injured two people, also damaged another government vehicle on two separate occasions four years ago, according to county records.

Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) totaled a county-owned Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle in a distracted-driving crash in 2012, the records show, two months after banging up the same vehicle in an incident that he did not report to police.

The more serious collision involved Franklin rear-ending a car on the Beltway and resulted in more than $33,000 in repair costs and losses to the government, according to damage reports. Neither crash was reported to the public when it occurred.

Franklin was behind the wheel of another county-issued SUV last week, late on the night of Nov. 21, when he allegedly plowed into the back of a sedan on Pennsylvania Avenue near Forestville. The driver and passenger from the sedan went to the hospital. Police said no one else was in Franklin’s vehicle.

The second-term council member was charged with driving under the influence after state troopers tested him and found he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10, greater than the legal limit of 0.08. Police said Franklin was about 70 yards away from the Ford Explorer, in the median of the roadway, when they arrived at the scene.

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This car was allegedly struck by an SUV driven by Prince George’s Council member Mel Franklin on Nov. 21. (TWP)

Franklin, 41, has not responded to repeated requests for comment. His attorney also declined to answer questions.

In Prince George’s County, lawmakers can be assigned a full-time car from the county’s fleet of vehicles, or seek a travel stipend to cover the cost of driving their own cars on official business. The county vehicles are for work-related travel and incidental personal use.

County Council spokeswoman Karen Campbell said Thursday that because of his driving record, Franklin will no longer have access to the fleet.

The lawmaker was issued an SUV when he was elected to office in 2010, according to Roland Jones, director of the county’s Office of Central Services. On Oct. 5, 2012, he was involved in a crash that damaged the SUV’s front end and grill but was not reported to police. It cost the county about $1,500 to fix the vehicle.

On Dec. 5 of that year, about 7:30 p.m., Franklin slammed the SUV into the back of a GMC Yukon on the Beltway. He told state troopers “he took his eyes off the road for a moment” to change the radio station and did not receive a citation.

The county’s body shop declared the vehicle a “total loss,” which cost the government $33,171.92 to replace, according to documents provided to The Washington Post.

Neither Franklin nor his attorney have said where he was headed at the time of each of the collisions.

Franklin at that point began to use his personal vehicle, Jones said. In May of this year, he asked for a county vehicle and was issued the SUV that was involved in the crash that led to the drunken-driving charge.

Campbell, the council spokeswoman, would not say whether Franklin needed approval to be assigned the SUV.

Franklin isn’t the first Prince George’s elected official to get in trouble while driving a county-owned vehicle. In 2012, council member Karen R. Toles (D-Suitland) was clocked going more than 100 mph on the Beltway and charged with reckless driving. She avoided getting points on her driver’s license by agreeing to be sentenced to probation before judgment after a two-hour trial before Anne Arundel District Court Judge Megan Johnson.

Toles still uses a take-home vehicle, Campbell said, as do council members Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale), Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington), Todd M. Turner (D-Bowie) and Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel). Council Chair Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville), vice-chair Dannielle M. Glaros (D-Riverdale Park) and council member Deni Taveras (D-Adelphi) receive the automobile allowance, Campbell said.

Other Washington-area jurisdictions appear to have more stringent policies on when elected lawmakers can use government vehicles.

Members of the Montgomery County Council drive their own cars and are reimbursed for mileage, officials there said. In Arlington County, board members and the appointed county manager have access to the county’s fleet of vehicles on an as-needed basis, for county business only, spokeswoman Mary Curtius said.

Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors do not have full-time access to vehicles but can reserve a car if needed for government business or work-related trips. The District of Columbia has a pool of two cars and a van that the 13-member council and its staffers share for official business only.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who has a government-issued car and driver, said he has limited the number of people in the executive branch who have access to the fleet. He added that his administration does not police the council.

“It’s clearly within their purview to make the rules,” Baker said. “I think they’ll look at the policies now and see if they need to be changed.”

via Washington post. 

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Bitter budget battle in Prince George’s ends with Rushern Baker waving a white flag. He surrenders finally.

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By Arelis R. Hernández June 19 at 5:25 PM
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) announced Friday that he will accept the 2016 operating budget approved by the County Council and not challenge it in court, bringing an end to the most bitter battle he has waged with the council since taking office.

In a statement, Baker said he decided to put the interests of county residents “ahead of a lengthy and divisive legal process” surrounding a section of county law that he and the council interpreted differently.

The litigation would have fostered “uncertainty and disharmony,” the statement said.

The council rejected Baker’s proposal for a 15-percent hike in the property tax rate to generate more funds for public schools. Baker then vetoed parts of the budget passed by the council, demanding a tax rate hike of 11.45 percent. But the council overrode that veto and stuck with a 4-percent property tax rate hike — the first in Prince George’s in more than three decades — and a 1.5-cent increase in the park and planning tax.

Baker went on a countywide tour this spring to drum up support for his proposal to raise taxes dramatically to generate $133 million for public schools. He argued that better schools would boost home prices, attract new families and businesses and improve the county’s regional competitiveness.

But he failed to convince residents or win cooperation from lawmakers. The council passed an alternative budget that cut most of the Baker’s new initiatives and eliminated proposed furloughs and layoffs.

Baker then said that the county was barred by law from adjusting his proposed budget by more than 1 percent — a contention that council members said was ludicrous.

In his statement, Baker said the controversy over school funding was evidence that “we are very passionate about this place we call home.”

via Washington Post

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County Council wants more assurances from school system before approving increased budget

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UPPER MARLBORO – Although Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) officials have promised to hold themselves accountable if County Executive Rushern Baker III’s budget proposal passes, some members of the County Council remain unconvinced.

At a council worksession last Wednesday to discuss the school system’s budget, schools officials promised accountability in the form of annual report cards. The school system is slated to receive $1.93 billion in Baker’s proposed budget, which includes a $133 million increase from the county. In order to fund the increase, Baker has proposed raising the real property tax rate by 15 percent—above the charter limit. He also proposed raising the county’s personal property tax rate from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed value. Telecommunication taxes will be raised from 8 percent to 12 percent on top of those increases.

But Councilwoman Mary Lehman said the school system has not done a good job of convincing the council and constituents that the increases are necessary. She said the school system and the Board of Education have done a lackluster job when discussing the budget with residents at town hall meetings. She also criticized school system officials’ time commitment after PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell left a worksession early a couple weeks before, which angered Councilwoman Karen Toles at the time.

“We need you to stay here when you come here for as long as you possibly can and if we need you to come back then you need to come back,” Lehman said. “I was the first councilmember to have a town hall meeting on this and Mr. (Segun) Eubanks came. And, frankly, I don’t think he was a good emissary for this. He came with no formal presentation.”

Constituents were really annoyed with Eubanks being unprepared, Lehman said, and were not sold on Maxwell’s plan with no presentation.

Toles agreed that the school system and Maxwell need to be held accountable because the council is not asking for money from the school system.

“We’re not asking for $2 billion dollars—you are,” Toles said. “Be here. Be accountable. We all have late nights. Some of us even get sick. This is an important topic and an important discussion. We have to balance the budget for the tax payers and make sure we’re using their money right.”

During the worksession, Toles said she wants to make sure that each and every school in the county gets the same benefits and that the increased funding would not just reach schools in certain areas of the county. Toles questioned officials on why they have not implemented International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) programs at the feeder schools for Suitland High School, even though Suitland has an IB program.

There is a “major problem” with Maxwell’s strategic plan. Toles said, because it does not improve the schools in her district.

“What I’m concerned about is improving my community,” Toles said. “You have Suitland High School that has been an IB school for a long time but you do not extend IB programs to elementary and middle schools there.”

While she is supportive of language-immersion programs, Toles said students need opportunities to develop in educational programs that can help them succeed.

“I feel like we are dumbing down my community by not giving them a chance with those programs,” Toles said.

Maxwell said before he arrived in the school system, there were no IB programs. It is the school system’s intention to develop a support structure for every high school program they have, he said, through middle and elementary school education.

“It takes funding and training to do those things,” Maxwell said. “The expansion of IB programs, over time, will take place.”

Toles said it is not fair to some programs and services in certain parts of the county and not others. She requested information from the school system about when it would place an IB program in her elementary and middle schools. Monica Goldson, the chief operating officer of PGCPS, said the county has slated to put IB programs at Suitland Elementary school and William Hall Academy and could provide Toles with a list of other schools slated to get IB programs. However, as of Tuesday Toles said she had not received any information from the school system.

Along with report cards, County Council members said they want to ensure the school system spends money where it says it will. While the County Council approves the school system’s budget allocation, it cannot determine how the school system spends its money.

The school system will send out an annual report card to parents to notify them about how the schools are improving, Maxwell said. The school system has promised to improve its standardized test scores, graduation rate and dropout rate. The school system’s goal is to get into the state’s top 10 by 2020.

“We actually have thought about sending that out with the kids when they get their report cards. We are trying to get a handle on how long it will take to get data back from the state for this,” Maxwell said. “Different accountability pieces come at different times.”

The school system must wait for the state to certify some of their performance numbers before they are put out to the public, Maxwell said, and that can be a potential issue.

Councilman Obie Patterson asked for the school system to clearly identify what numbers it will use to audit its performance. Everyone has different performance standards, Patterson said, but the performance standards for the school system are not clear. Patterson’s constituents are saying the school system has gotten money before, he said, but they have not seen any results.

The accountability for the school system will come through council and the county government, said Monique Davis, deputy superintendent. Because the council approves additional funding, Davis said, councilmembers will be the ones who will hold the school system accountable.

“It comes through our partnerships. Through our partnership with the county council, you guys are going to hold us accountable. I think that’s what you can tell your constituents,” Davis said.

Councilwoman Andrea Harrison said the school system has put council members in a tough position by balancing education needs with increasing taxes on residents without any insurances for positive results.

“You have asked us to put a significant tax increase on the residents in this county. In my opinion, and I think in the opinion of the people of this county, we have not proven that we are making progress,” Harrison said.

The school system will not stop asking for increases, Harrison said, but if there are no results, she said, it will be difficult to continue to give increases if there are no results to show any progress.

“Your children can’t come to you and ask for increases in their allowance if they are not doing something that you can see is worth them getting an increase in their allowance,” Harrison said.

via Prince George’s county Sentinelpgcps_logoPRINCE-large

PG County Ready for BOE applications.

Apr 20, 2013 03:45 PM EDTFINAL_IMG_3170-Edit-B-497x640

The Washington PostPublished: April 20

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and the County Council are accepting applications for four new appointed positions on the Board of Education, county officials announced Saturday.

State lawmakers expanded the nine-member elected school board under a compromise bill that also allows Baker to hire the county’s next schools chief. Read more ~~~> school board positions

70% of the voters interviewed in PG County approve the job the County Executive Baker and other elected officials in Annapolis are doing. Let us support him and the county council to help select the right candidates,  the right next BOE Chair and the vice Chair person respectfully to help make proper changes.  Any choices excluding Verjeana Jacobs (her husband David is the package) as a leader in PGCPS is a greater advantage for our children. Kudos to the Maryland General assembly and Governor O’Malley!

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