Tag Archives: Prince George

Federal bribery charges filed over Prince George’s County liquor licenses

img_7911Two liquor store owners looking for an advantage with Sunday sales bribed public officials in a scheme that involved money drops in the men’s restroom of a restaurant and bank deposits by an elected official who pulled stacks of cash from his pockets, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Four people were charged in federal court in connection with what prosecutors said was a long-running conspiracy that paid off a Maryland state lawmaker and officials with the Prince George’s County liquor board.

Two people with the liquor board and two business owners in the county are accused of conspiring to influence public officials, and the investigation included undercover FBI agents, wiretaps and an envelope of cash stashed in a car’s glove compartment.

Among those charged were David Dae Sok Son, 40, the liquor agency’s administrator, and board commissioner Anuj Sud, 39, a College Park lawyer.

“The defendants allegedly paid cash bribes to state and local officials in Prince George’s County in return for favorable action concerning liquor licenses,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. “Our government is not supposed to work that way.”

Prosecutors assert that the conspiracy dates from at least 2012 and extended through 2015, and includes a series of bribes, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Rosenstein said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing. At least two more government officials are expected to be charged, according to court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

The affidavit does not name the officials but describes them as a former elected official and a state delegate, who is a member of the House Economic Matters Committee who voted to extend Sunday alcohol sales in 2015.

The arrests of the Prince George’s businessmen and public officials extend the county’s troubled history of pay-to-play politics, a history that second-term County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has fought to leave behind since succeeding disgraced former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D).

Baker vowed to “root out any and all county employees or appointees that are involved in any nefarious activity.” He said he is concerned that “the perception of corruption will be directed at the county government, setting us back in our war against unethical and illegal behavior.”

 Johnson, Baker’s predecessor, was county executive from 2002 to 2010 and pleaded guilty to extortion and witness and evidence tampering after masterminding a corruption conspiracy in which prosecutors said he received more than $1.6 million in bribes. His wife, Leslie Johnson, made headlines when she flushed a $100,000 check down the toilet and hid $79,600 in cash in her underwear as federal agents pounded on the couple’s front door.

At the heart of the conspiracy outlined in court papers Thursday is the Board of License Commissioners, a state entity that regulates the sale of alcohol in the county at more than 600 liquor stores, restaurants and other businesses. The board’s five commissioners are appointed by the governor to three-year terms.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who appointed Sud in 2015, called the situation “a mess” and said that Sud should resign immediately in light of the allegations.

“It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if we had the entire liquor board in Prince George’s County resign over these disgraceful things,” Hogan said.

Son, the current director of the board, was a commissioner from 2005 through 2014 and is accused of soliciting and arranging bribes from lobbyists and business owners, including being a middleman in arranging a $4,000 payment from a businessman to an elected official in the men’s bathroom of a restaurant.

An affidavit filed by a federal agent describes a series of bribes paid in return for government grants and to push through legislation to expand liquor sales in the county.

During the 2015 Maryland legislative session, Son served as a liaison for the county’s Senate delegation, the charging documents state. Son specifically worked with lobbyists and business owners who were interested in the passage of a bill to allow up to 100 permits to sell alcohol on Sundays in Prince George’s County.

Son allegedly asked an unnamed elected official to help get the bill passed by pressuring one of his colleagues. Both officials subsequently voted in favor of the bill, according to prosecutors.

 Two business owners also were charged Thursday: Young Jung Paig, 62, the owner of Central Avenue Restaurant & Liquor Store and Shin Ja Lee, 55, owner of Palmer Liquor Store.

After Hogan signed a Sunday sales bill into law in April 2015, prosecutors said Son arranged a lunch with Paig, Lee and the elected official whose help he had sought. During the lunch, prosecutors said Son told the elected official to meet Paig in a men’s bathroom, saying, “He’s going to hook you up, alright?”

In the bathroom, Paig allegedly handed the elected official a white envelope with $3,000 in cash and another envelope with $1,000. The official was working as an informant for law enforcement at the time, but stopped cooperating in July 2015, according to the affidavit. The official has agreed to plead guilty to bribery charges, according to the filing.

Prosecutors said Son later received a $4,000 payment from a lobbyist for his help in getting a client a Sunday license.

In November 2015, a second elected official who helped push the Sunday sales bill went with Son to a Panera Bread restaurant in Bowie with the two liquor store owners, according to the affidavit. When the four left the restaurant, the state delegate got in the car with Paig.

FBI agents watched as the delegate immediately drove to the Capital One Bank in the same shopping complex. He pulled up and deposited $2,000 in the drive-through ATM and went inside to deposit another $2,000 with the teller, according to surveillance footage and bank records.

Son did not enter a plea during his brief appearance in court Thursday. Prosecutors said he had agreed to work for law enforcement as an informant, but then allegedly began tipping off other targets. Son was the only one of the four arrested ordered to remain in federal custody due to fears from prosecutors that he would further obstruct the case. Son’s attorney Christopher Nieto disputed the prosecutors’ characterization.

Sud, who is accused of taking cash bribes in exchange for votes on liquor board matters, also made a brief court appearance Thursday and was released until his next hearing.

 In his legal practice, Sud has represented a company that federal and state agencies have said violated the law when it targeted victims of lead-paint poisoning in scores of financial deals that made the company millions of dollars.

Before the charges were filed, federal agents on Thursday morning searched the Largo offices of the liquor board, interviewing workers and gathering documents in the offices of the agency’s fourth-floor suite on Basil Court, in a Largo office park.

Last month, the board’s chairman, Charles W. Caldwell III, resigned after being arrested on drunken-driving charges outside the MGM National Harbor on the casino’s opening night.

Caldwell took the helm of the agency in March 2015 after a standoff with his predecessor, Franklin D. Jackson, who said he was never properly notified that he was being replaced.

via Washington Post 

Franklin D. Jackson, the former leader of the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners initially refused to hand over power  to Mr. Charles W. Caldwell III who resigned after being arrested on drunken-driving charges outside the MGM National Harbor. 

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Charles W Caldwell, III. The chairman of the Prince George’s County liquor commission was charged with DUI outside the MGM National Harbor resort in Oxon Hill. He denies he was drunk.

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Franklin D. Jackson, the former leader of the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners cradled the gavel with both hands, like a football. He then refused to surrender it to the new chairman, Charles W. Caldwell III leading to a power struggle due to corruption.

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In Prince George’s County- First a senator resigned. Then he rescinded.

What that means for Maryland Democrats…..

Ulysses Currie

Sen. Ulysses Currie  (Seen here) In 2012, The ethics panel urged Maryland senators to strip Sen. Ulysses Currie of all but one committee assignment and to bar him from any role in House-Senate negotiations to resolve differences over bills due to his rampant corruption which became too much until he got arrested by the FBI.

When Larry Stafford heard that Sen. Ulysses Currie was retiring and Currie’s wife was being floated as his replacement, the political activist thought: “Here we go again.”

Earlier this year, after the death of Del. James E. Proctor Jr. (D-Prince George’s), the county Democratic Committee nominated Proctor’s wife as his successor, urged on by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). Stafford figured the same would happen with Shirley Gravely-Currie, 66, who appeared to have the support of Miller, Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) and most of the county Senate delegation. And he wasn’t happy about it.

“It’s not their seat,” said Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland. “It’s the people’s seat.”

This time, the central committee apparently agreed. Its members were bitterly divided over whether to support Gravely-Currie or one of three other interested candidates: former delegate Melony G. Griffith and Dels. Darryl Barnes and Angela M. Angel, both of District 25. They would be expected to run for a full four-year term in 2018 if chosen for the seat.

On Tuesday, after weeks of acrimonious indecision, Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) rescinded his resignation, saying he would rather stay in office an additional two years than have the committee appoint someone who would have a political advantage two years from now.

 The unusual sequence of events illustrates the growing willingness of Maryland Democrats to challenge their party’s establishment, and the impact of that change on county politics.

For decades, when a statehouse seat became vacant, committee members from the affected county received phone calls from their state senators, telling them who they should nominate as a replacement. And support that person they did.

But when Currie announced his intent to step down after a 30-year career, Prince George’s committee members balked. It was the latest instance in which they have proven to be political upstarts, adamant about making their own decisions and questioning local Democratic leaders.

In September, the committee went against the will of most senators and voted not to endorse a position on ballot Question D, which asked voters to add two at-large seats to the nine-member County Council. The referendum, which was approved by the council and supported by party leaders, passed by a substantial margin on Election Day.

The committee members, elected two years ago, share some similarities with the freshman class in the Maryland House of Delegates, who have pushed back against the Democratic legislative leadership on issues ranging from which bills to support to who should take the lead in challenging Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

Despite a push from the majority of the senators who represent Prince George’s, many committee members wanted to fill Currie’s seat with someone other than his wife. Two people familiar with the process said Gravely-Currie was running third among the four candidates under consideration.

 “This is a new generation of the central committee,” said committee member Belinda Queen-Howard, who represents District 25 and was supporting Griffith. “Some were under the control of the county executive, some under the control of their senators. Now they realize they don’t have the control of the votes.”

One Democratic state senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss party business, said, “There’s been a little bit of a change in the times.” The senator suggested that vacancies should be filled with special elections, rather than appointments.

When he announced his plans to resign, Currie, 79, cited his health challenges in a letter to Miller and said he “can no longer serve with the strength and energy you all deserve.”

“Everybody knows his health is failing,” Queen-Howard said. “I’m disappointed because I really wanted my senator to leave with respect and dignity. At this point, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Stafford said he is proud that the committee took an anti-establishment stand rather than rubber stamping a vote for “the political favorite.”

“Maybe this signals a decline of a certain era of Prince George’s County politics,” he said.

Via Washington Post 

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PG’s schools still lag as Baker ponders move to Annapolis

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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III

– The Washington Times –

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is weighing another run for office. This time it’s the race for governor of Maryland.

Mr. Baker cannot seek re-election to his present post because of the county’s term limits. Indeed, he twice sought the county executive seat and twice lost to Jack Johnson.

In fact, Mr. Baker won the seat in 2010 only after Johnson became embroiled in — and later pleaded guilty to — public corruption charges.

Mr. Baker has pushed for the right to hold on to his current job. In 2014, the same year he won re-election, Prince George’s voters rejected a measure that would have allowed the county executive and council members to serve three four-year terms. It was the third time since the 1990s that voters maintained their hard line against expanding terms.

But once a politician always a politician.

Mr. Baker, a staunch Democrat, now says he and his family will consider a possible challenge to popular GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, telling The Washington Post this week that a decision won’t come until after the November presidential election. (He’s with Hillary, of course.)

“I don’t base [my decision] on what the political climate is,” Mr. Baker said. “It’s whether I think I can do a good job and whether it is right for me and my family at that time — and if I can get the things done that I want to do.”

Having also served nearly a decade in the Maryland House of Delegates beginning in 1994, it’s clear that Mr. Bakerlikes elective politics and politicking. What’s not so clear, however, is that Mr. Baker has a clear vision of the needs of public education in his county, which is in more turmoil now than during the fierce busing desegregation battles of the 1970s. And much of the tension stems from Mr. Baker’s move to take over administration of the troubled system and run it himself.

The school system leadership vacuum stems from the decision by the state to honor Mr. Baker’s request to take the reins a few years back. This year alone, parents, students and teachers have had to deal with child and sex abuse allegations, with some of those allegations involving the troubled Head Start program and special-needs students.

This week, another scandal broke in the news — a cover-up within the school hierarchy. The chief of staff of Mr. Baker’s handpicked superintendent was forced out this week.

The most pressing consideration here is timing. For one thing, there’s the tick-tick-tick of the term-limits clock. Then there’s this economic development project called MGM National Harbor that is expected to open in December. A monster gambling/hotel/entertainment/dining/retail venue, the MGM National Harbor will rival anything in the Washington region, and Mr. Baker has a lot riding personally on its success. When the doors open, you won’t have to gamble on whether Mr. Baker will be all grits and grins, since the project was snagged during his watch.

But one could still question whether his gubernatorial gambit is a distraction, political cover, so to speak. After all, public schooling has always been a key issue in Mr. Baker’s arsenal. He offers a taste of his pitch on his RushernBaker.com website: “His scholastic achievements represented a triumph over early struggles with reading, a success made possible by the tenacity and support of his family and teachers. Rushern, an active reader and accomplished lawyer, has remained a steadfast advocate of the importance of teachers and education throughout his career.”

Would candidate Baker — or Gov. Baker — remain such a steadfast advocate?

Maybe. Maybe not.

For sure, however, Mr. Baker needs to take a lead on the home front, where parents, and local and state leaders are questioning whether he has a firm grip on the education reins.

Prince George’s families and voters have a right to expect Mr. Baker will be their chief and primary advocate. Pronto.

Politics and politicking be damned.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

Via washington times. 

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Charges against PGCPS bus aide took too long, school union says

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Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses,

PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – As prosecutors announced charges against a bus aide accused of sexual abuse, the union that once represented him says it took too long and concerns reported by another member were ignored.

“We’re being directed to report [abuse],” said Shirley Kirkland. “Once it’s reported it’s up to the peers to do what they’re supposed to do and that’s not happening.”

Kirkland is the President of the union that represents support professionals working for Prince George’s County Public Schools George’s, ACE-AFSCME Local 2250.

She says a now retired bus driver, reported Michael Patopie to her superiors in November of 2015, after witnessing inappropriate behaviors. The superiors, Kirkland says, ignored it.

“[The driver] made the report that she thought she saw this member or this gentleman inappropriately touching a student. She even let them know that she thought she saw him kiss the student on the temple,” Kirkland said.

“She did everything that she was supposed to do… She made the report and she reported it to her peers. It wasn’t taken seriously.”

Police arrested Patopie Tuesday morning and charged him with second degree child abuse, sexual abuse of a minor, and assault.

According to police, Patopie was caught on tape, inappropriately touching two students – a four year old and five year old – in November of 2015 and in May of 2016.

Kirkland says the arrest should’ve happened sooner, if the reports of the bus driver were taken seriously.

“It would’ve been earlier,” she said, “had it been addressed properly.”

Since, by her account, it wasn’t, Kirkland says it’s time for the person in charge of the school system to step aside.

When asked if CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign, Kirkland said, “yes. I do, and I’m saying that because there’s no way in the world these things should be taking place and you know nothing about it.”

In response to those calls, a spokesperson for Maxwell told WUSA9, Dr. Maxwell is “committed” to the school system.

“This work is personal to him: He was raised in Prince George’s County, began his career in education here and lives in this community,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Dr. Maxwell hopes to address the school system’s longstanding challenges through better collaboration and communication with all stakeholders.”

Maxwell has previously said he did not learn about the allegations against Patopie until August of this year.

In a statement today he said he is “sickened” by the allegations.

“I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students. We will cooperate fully with our law enforcement partners to ensure that he is held accountable,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for the school system says they’ve begun the process of firing Patopie.

He is currently being held on $500,000 bond.

via wusa9

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Shirley Kirkland (Seen here) is the President of the union that represents support professionals working for Prince George’s County Public Schools George’s, ACE-AFSCME Local 2250. – Kirkland when asked if CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign, Kirkland said, “yes. I do, and I’m saying that because there’s no way in the world these things should be taking place and you know nothing about it.”

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Shirley Adams – A former President of ACE-AFSCME Local 2250 Union and Prince George’s County school bus driver told News4 she twice reported a school bus aide’s inappropriate behavior to her boss before telling Child Protective Services. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reported.

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Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell visits Suitland High school on Aug. 23, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

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PGCPS School Bus Aide Accused of Molesting Students Charged

patopie

Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses,

A school bus aide has been charged following allegations he molested special education, pre-kindergarten children on a Prince George’s County school bus.

Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office said.

Police say Patopis inappropriately touched two students while they were on the school bus in November 2015 and in May 2016.

A former Prince George’s County school bus driver told News4 she saw Patopie inappropriately touching the victims in November 2015 and reported it to her supervisors. Months later, she anonymously reported the incident to Child Protective Services (CPS).

CPS then alerted the parents of one of the victims, a 4-year-old boy with special needs. The victim’s parents were told bus cameras caught the abuse and they were shown enough video to identify their son, but they had not seen the alleged abuse.

The parents said they were told the same thing happened to another child on the bus. According the charging documents, the second victim is 5 years old and reported the alleged abuse to his mother.

The children involved have verbal delays and trouble communicating.

“My son might say one or two words, but he does not say sentences at all, and I saw something change, but I just didn’t think of that,” the mother of the 4 year old said.

The bus was carrying students from James Ryder Randall Elementary School in Clinton, Maryland. An unrelated investigation found students in the school’s Head Start program were forced to hold objects over their heads for a long time as punishment in June.

Prince George’s County Police confirmed they are investigating the incident, which was reported to CPS May 24 and to police June 20. The boy reported more information to police in August, according to sources. The boy’s father said the incident happened in November.

PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said he didn’t find out until August, when school started.

“When I became aware of it, I had those folks placed on administrative leave,” he said. “I can’t act on what I don’t know.”

Many parents say they’re struggling to understand why the school district’s leader didn’t know about the allegations.

Prince George’s County Public Schools confirmed the aide and his supervisor are on administrative leave. Maxwell said the school system is “moving to immediately seek” Patopie’s termination.

“I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students,” Maxwell said.

Patopie is being held at the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections on a $500,000 bond.

Seven months ago, the community was horrified after learning a former teacher’s aide was reportedly sexually abusing students at another county school.

Source: School Bus Aide Accused of Molesting Prince George’s County Students Charged | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/School-Bus-Aide-Accused-of-Molesting-Prince-Georges-County-Students-Charged-394949241.html#ixzz4LUcQLrCE

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PHOTOS: Protesters demand rules change, resignations at PGCPS.

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During a protest Monday, Co-Chair of the group Citizens For An Elected Board, David Cahn (in front with white hat) said politics is being given priority over children. (WTOP/Kristi King)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Fed up with recent scandals and repeated allegations of student abuse and neglect by employees of Prince George’s County schools, protesters Monday demanded new leadership and changes to how school officials are selected.

 Protesters want Maryland’s legislature to repeal a 2013 law that gave the Prince George’s county executive the power to appoint the county school board’s chair, vice chair and the school system’s CEO, among other positions.

The law is commonly referred to as HB 1107.

“We’ve got no accountability here,” said David Cahn, the co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board. He pointed to the fact that the school board doesn’t control the CEO, Kevin Maxwell, who is appointed by County Executive Rushern Baker. And many members of the board are also appointed by Baker.

Protesters called for the resignations of Baker and Maxwell, as well as school board chair Segun C. Eubanks and vice chair Carolyn M. Boston.

About 20 protesters at the gathering included school board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8), Democratic Central Committee Assistant Secretary Belinda Queen-Howard (District 25), as well as parents and members of the public.

“HB 1107 needs to be repealed,” said the father of a four-year-old special needs student who is part of an ongoing investigation involving allegations of student abuse by a school bus aide. WTOP is not using the father’s name to protect his child’s identity.

“Now (power) is just handed to one person because of this law,” he said. “So, we need to repeal that law and put it the hands of the board so they can do votes and change the system, so it’ll be a better place for kids.”
 The recent cases of abuse and neglect should not be confused with how school leaders are chosen in the county, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker told WTOP.
Scott Peterson said in a statement that the 2013 governance changes have helped pave the way for recent successes including historic highs in graduation rates and a top ten statewide ranking in English and language arts scores.

Read Peterson’s entire statement to WTOP below:

“We should always applaud citizens who come together and exercise their right to assemble and express their concerns about an issue that impacts our County.

When HB 1107 was passed in 2013, it was designed to create a governance structure that would better position Prince George’s County Public Schools to be more successful academically and operationally, and ultimately to move us from the bottom to the top in the state’s school system rankings.

Three and a half years later, we have
  •  Significantly expanded full-day pre-kindergarten (we’ve increased this important first phase of education for our youngest students from 8 programs to 50 pre-kindergarten programs),
  • Implemented more rigorous academic standards and programs, and provided more choice for students and parents, throughout all grades,
  • Achieved historic highs in graduation rates (close to 80% of our students are graduating) and 9th grade promotion rates (which means that fewer of our students are dropping out),
  • Improved test scores significantly (our students ranked in the Top 10 of statewide English and Language Arts scores),
  • Increased enrollment in our schools substantially (130,000 students are now attending), and the overall college and career readiness of our children is improving as well.

The recent cases of deplorable behavior by some school employees are extremely disturbing, but we should not confuse these incidents with the governance changes that have paved the way for our success over the last few years. These challenges are a reflection of an organization that is going through a much needed cultural change after an inordinate number of leadership and policy changes that may have blurred our primary focus on the safety of our children. This is a defining moment for our school system and just as we focused like a laser on reforming our academic programs and offerings, we must approach the safety of our children with the same unwavering focus and vigor.

The achievements of PGCPS over the last three years cannot be overlooked. We must keep marching forward and build on our academic successes by creating an attitude and culture in our schools where everyone, from the bus driver to the principal, is focused on sustaining an absolutely safe and nurturing learning environment for all students.”
via WTOP
 Below is a session of the event in pictures.
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During a protest Monday, Co-Chair of the group Citizens For An Elected Board, David Cahn (in front with white hat) said politics is being given priority over children. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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Vote NO on Question D in Prince George’s County.

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There are many ways to accomplish goals and a way to involve the communities into a discussion. Several schools have been closed in prince Georges county community in a very short span of time to save millions they said.

Now, the county council wants to look out for themselves and spend 1 million plus to add on two (2) seats that the community can do without. We can have at large members without adding all this on on a cash strapped county. Please  “VOTE NO on Question D” and if we are going to address this,  the council needs to involve the people from the grounds up.

Spread the word and circulate this information widely. “Vote No” on “Question D” during the November 8, 2016 Presidential Election.

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Activists, parents call for change within the PGCPS system

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Activists, parents call for change within the Prince George’s County school system (ABC7)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md.  — About 20 activists rallied for change in front of the Prince George’s County Administration Building on Monday in Upper Marlboro.
The activists say problems have grown too many and too great for the current leadership of the system.

“We’re tired of the stale baked goods,” said Jacques Chevalier. “We’re tired of Mr. Maxwell, who is not fulfilling what he needs to do in Prince George’s County as head of the school system.”

“We’ve had one scandal after another and now we are at a point where the scandals involve the abuse and molestation of children,” said Tonya Wingfield.

Charles Nichols was among the marchers. He says his four-year-old, special needs son was molested by a school bus aide in an incident that is now being screened by the Maryland State Attorney’s office for possible charges.

Nichols spoke openly for the first time at the rally.

“I’m out here as a father trying to speak for my son,” said Nichols. “The bus aide that molested my son is still walking around, nobody has been charged.”

In addition to the ousting of school system CEO Kevin Maxwell, the group wants to repeal the 2013 law, which gave County Executive Rushern Baker control over the school board and the system CEO.

In response, Baker issued a statement saying his leadership is making the system better academically.

Via WJLA
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Timeline reveals depth of Prince George’s head start crisis

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UPPER MARLBORO (WUSA9) – From allegations of child abuse, to cries of “cover up”, the Prince George’s County School system has been upended by a scandal in the Head Start program that forced federal officials to take over, and cost the a county $6.4 million grant.

Here is a timeline that helps explain how school officials kept an allegedly abusive teacher working with children while failing to meet federal demands to protect children’s safety.

THE INCIDENT

Dec. 17, 2015: A Head Start teacher at the H. Winship Wheatley Early Education Center in Capitol Heights, Md. allegedly humiliates a 3-­year-­old boy who wet himself during naptime. The teacher is accused of forcing the child to stand in front of his classmates with wet clothes on. She is accused of forcing him to mop up urine while she takes photos. She sends the photos and mocking texts to the child’s mother.

WORKER ACCUSED OF DISCOURAGING REPORT

Dec. 22, 2015: Victim’s mother discusses her concerns with a Head Start Family Service worker but is discouraged from reporting the incident, according to a federal report.

FIRST REPORT KEPT “IN HOUSE” DESPITE THE LAW

Jan, 12, 2016: The mother has a change of heart and formally reports the incident to the Family Service Worker. Despite a law requiring immediate reporting to Prince George’s County Child Protective Services or police, the worker keeps the matter in­house by sending an email reporting a “Parent Concern” to Principal Julie Orgettas and Head Start Program director Sandra Kee.

TEACHER PLACED ON LEAVE, BUT NOT FOR LONG

Jan. 14, 2016: The Wheatley teacher is placed on administrative leave.  She will be reinstated and moved to another school within a month and will continue to work with children even after federal investigators begin an inquiry and confirm the allegations.

VICTIM’S MOM TELLS TOP OFFICIALS EARLY ON

Jan. 19, 2016: The victim’s mother sends an email, including screen­grabs of the abusive photos and texts throughout the administration of the Prince George’s County School System. Recipients include: School System CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, program supervisor Laura Barbee­ Matthews, area instruction director Dr. Judith White, and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Gladys Whitehead.

OUTSIDE AUTHORTIES FINALLY NOTIFIED

Jan. 20, 2016: The abuse incident is formally reported to Prince George’s County Child Protective Services by the school system, 8 days later than legally required.  While CPS does not return a finding against the teacher, her actions appear to have violated Head Start and PGCPS policies against bullying students and taking and sharing photographs of children.  Even so, she is cleared to return to the school.

VICTIM’S MOM APPLIES FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

Feb. 8 2016: With the teacher off suspension, the victim’s mother swears out peace order against teacher to prevent her from entering the building where the child is, according to Maryland court online records.

HEAD START OFFICIALS NOTIFIED

Feb. 10, 2015 PGCPS Head Start Director notifies Head Start Regional office of the incident.

“SHE WILL BE MISSED”: TEACHER IS TRANSFERRED

Feb. 19, 2016: The teacher is assigned to work at a different Early Education Center.  An announcement to parents from Principal Orgettas to parents says, “She will be missed, but we wish her well with this new opportunity.”  While no longer being paid from the federal Head Start grant, the teacher remains an employee of PGCPS and is assigned to work directly with children.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS GO TO WORK

Feb. 22, 2016: A federal investigation is launched by the US Administration for Children and Families. This is the same day PGCPS announces the formation of a school safety task force as the system grapples with allegations that teacher’s aide Deonte Carraway produced child porn at the Sylvania Woods Elementary School

SCHOOL OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF BLOCKING PROBE

Feb. 23, 2016: Federal investigators demand documentation on the school system’s reports to Child Protective Services but school officials “refused to provide the information”, according to the investigators’ report.

TOP OFFICIALS NOTIFIED OF DEFICIENCIES BUT TEACHER STILL ON THE JOB

Feb. 29, 2016: Prince George’s County Public Schools is formally notified by the US Administration for Children and Families that the report of abuse is confirmed. A demand to correct “deficiencies” is included in the report. Among the recipients of the report is PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell. The teacher in the matter remains on the job at her new assignment.

PGCPS NEEDS MORE TIME

March 4, 2016: Extension requested to submit corrective action plan, which was subsequently granted.

PGCPS TRIES TO CORRECT PROBLEMS

Mar. 10, 2016: As part of an effort to comply with the Federal findings, at least 10 Head Start teachers and staff get retrained on confidentiality rules.

PARENT COUNCIL BRIEFED ON SITUATION

March 16, 2016: The Head Start Advisory Council, a group made up of parents, holds a meeting and discusses the federal findings, according to minutes of the meeting.

ALLEGATIONS OF A “COVER-UP”

April 7, 2016: PGCPS CEO Maxwell’s Chief of Staff George Margolies sends an email to a deputy superintendent reporting that he has successfully prevented a Board of Education member from putting the Head Start Advisory Council’s minutes on the agenda for public discussion in an upcoming Board meeting. Opponents will later seize on this as proof of an attempted “cover­up” at the highest levels. Maxwell denies this. He says the email was taken out of context and, in fact, it was a discussion about how to handle reporting of various matters to the Board of Education over a period of years without clogging the Board’s agenda.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING

April 11, 2016: The deadline set by federal investigators for the correction of deficiencies.

April 12-14, 2016:  Federal follow-up inspections occur which determine deficiencies are not corrected.  PGCPS officials claim they were not notified of these findings until August.

NO PUBLIC DISCUSSION AT BOARD OF EDUCATION

April 14, 2016: Board of Education meets but does not discuss Head Start in public session. The minutes of the Advisory Council are posted on­line as “follow up items” and go unnoticed by the public and press. Board Chairman Dr. Segun Eubanks later says the board was briefed on Head Start during a private executive session that some members did not attend.

PGCPS GRAPPLES WITH CRISIS

May 31, 2016: The School Safety Task Force formed after the Deonte Carraway child porn case releases 61 recommendations including calls for better background checks, supervision and training of staff.

MORE NEGLECT AND ABUSE DISCOVERED

June 9 , 2016: An unattended 5­year old wanders away from the Langley Park Head Start program and arrives home alone.

June 15, 2016: Head Start teachers at the James Ryder elementary school are accused of humiliating and abusing preschoolers by forcing them to hold boxes of heavy books overhead as punishment.

June 10­-17, 2016: A federal follow up investigation determines new deficiencies are present and others remain uncorrected.  PGCPS officials say they were not informed of this until August.

THE HAMMER FALLS

Aug 12, 2016 The US Administration for Children and Families formally notifies the PGCPS that it’s $6.4 million Head Start grant is suspended because of the system’s failure to protect children. The report notes that some PGCPS officials refused to provide requested information during the investigation.  A process begins to transfer the management and budget of Prince George’s County Head Start to a Denver­-based contractor.

TEACHER SUSPENDED AGAIN NOW THAT CASE IS PUBLIC

August 18, 2016:  The teacher in the December abuse incident at the Wheatley school is placed on administrative leave for a second time.  This time she will be recommended for firing.

SCHOOL CEO STRUGGLES WITH QUESTIONS

Aug. 23, 2016: At a press event on first day of school, Maxwell says he didn’t know about the Head Start situation until “sometime in April”,  Despite federal records showing he and other top officials were notified on February 29.  Maxwell says: “We’ve had a very small number of people make a very large number of people look very poorly.”

PGCPS THOWS IN THE TOWEL

Aug. 25, 2016: The Prince George’s County Board of Education votes not to appeal the Head Start grant suspension which will allow PGCPS to negotiate an interim operating agreement and leaves open the door to re-apply for the grant in the future.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Aug 29, 2016: Head Start’s first day of school.

TEACHERS AND STAFF FIRED

Sept 1, 2016 Maxwell announces that 6 employees involved in the scandal, including the teacher in the Wheatley incident have been put on administrative leave. He says he has fired 3 and recommends 3 others for immediate firing by the Board of Education.

CEO FACES QUESTIONS

Sept. 20, 2016:  Maxwell tells a WUSA9 reporter that “the teacher was immediately moved out of Head Start Program” in the early days of the scandal.  He did not mention she was merely transferred off the Head Start Grant and continued to work as a PGCPS teacher at another school.

TOP STAFFER FIRED

Sept. 21, 2016:  Chief of Staff George Margolies is fired after his email is leaked to WUSA9.

CALLS FOR CEO TO RESIGN AND AN OUTSIDE AUDIT

Sept. 22, 2016:  As dissident Board members call for Maxwell to step down, PGCPS announces it will request an independent audit of the situation from the Maryland State Department of Education.

via wusa9

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On Sept. 21, 2016:  PGCPS Chief of Staff George Margolies was fired after his email was leaked to WUSA9 for engaging in misconduct and cover ups .

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A major protest is scheduled for Monday September 26th, 2016 in Upper Marlboro

Education advocates are planning a major rally in Prince George’s County Maryland in an effort to repeal legislation that essentially provided majority oversight of the Prince George’s County Public Schools to the County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

The protest is scheduled for Monday September 26th, 2016 during the day from 11am-12:30pm in Upper Marlboro Maryland. Protesters are asked to converge at THE CAB, LOWER LEVEL, ACROSS FROM THE LAKE facing the Prince George’s County Headquarters. This event is open to the public and the organizers are asking the members of the public to BRING PROTEST SIGN to help Repeal HB 1107 and to help address other issues.

The questions:

(1) Why repeal legislation that has only been on the books for just over 3 years?
(2) What are the alternatives? And what impact would a change in the law again have on student achievement?

You are invited to listen to  Rosalind JohnsonTonya Wingfield and others who are lead coordinators for the upcoming rally.

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