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P.G. County resolution at heart of Johnson indictment
Question of the Day
The 16th county resolution of 2010 was one of two items introduced before the Prince George's County Council last March 3 in the 24 minutes between the time members reconvened from a lunch break and they adjourned their weekly session, according to a meeting agenda.
The seemingly inconsequential resolution sought council approval to spend about $7 million associated with a federal program known as the HOME Investment Partnerships Program that gives local governments money to disburse for the construction, purchase or renovation of affordable housing.
But nearly a year later, the resolution is a prominent part of an eight-count indictment announced Monday against former County Executive Jack B. Johnson that charges him with conspiracy, extortion and bribery related to the performance of his official duties, along with charges of tampering with a witness and with evidence.
In the indictment, prosecutors reference two developers who were expecting to receive federal funds from the resolution, the official name of which was CR-16-2010. The developers are not named in court papers, which list them only as Developer A and Developer B. The documents say the developers together paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr. Johnson and another high-level public official.
The indictment says Mr. Johnson requested in February that County Resolution 16 be introduced, "thereby enabling Developer A's project to receive HOME funds from the county."
The court papers do not explicitly say how much Developer A expected to receive from Council Resolution 16 but note that Developer A in May complained to Mr. Johnson "that his development project had not yet received an expected $1,700,000 in HOME funds."
According to court papers, Developer A gave more than $200,000 to Mr. Johnson, who expected to receive at least $300,000 more from the person.
The indictment also states: "On or about April 5, 2010, defendant Jack Johnson signed County Resolution CR-16-2010, which approved the $1,000,000 in HOME funds for Developer B's project in the County." It goes on to say that Developer B provided an unnamed public official with a total of $30,000 from June through October. The indictment does not name the public official, who is referred to as Public Official A.
It says that "In or about September 2009, defendant Jack Johnson appointed Public Official A to serve as the Director of DHCD" — a period that would correspond with the term of James Johnson, no relation to the former county executive, as director of the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The identities of the developers remained unclear, and no additional arrests had been made as of Thursday.
Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, said she could not comment beyond what was in the indictment.
"The investigation is ongoing," she said.
Council Resolution 16, posted on the county's website, adds five projects to those receiving federal HOME Investment Partnership funds:
• The redevelopment of elderly housing units at Rainier Manor in Mount Rainier was granted $1 million in Council Resolution 16. The project was handled by Stavrou Associates. The Washington Post reported last year that N. Stephen Stavrou was one of the biggest recipients of HOME funds in the county over the past eight years and that his companies donated $1,070 to Mr. Johnson's campaign in 2003.
A message left for Mr. Stavrou on his company phone line was returned by company Vice President Stephen Moore, who read a brief statement and declined to answer questions.
"We are not Developer A or B. We have been learning about this as it has been reported in the media, just like the general public," Mr. Moore said. "The indictment clearly states Developer A and B are a commercial and residential developer based in the county, which we are not a commercial developer and not based in the county."
• The redevelopment of single-family homes in the Sugar Hill subdivision of Upper Marlboro was granted $1.7 million in Council Resolution 16.
The project was handled by a nonprofit group called Roots of Mankind. The Post last year profiled the development deal, saying the nonprofit acquired the houses after partnering in the venture with the property's owner, Dr. Mirza H.A. Baig, a Laurel physician and longtime business partner of Jack Johnson's who was also a significant donor to the former county executive's political campaigns.
The newspaper said Dr. Baig's company, Amina Limited Partnership, acquired the county-owned land under a no-bid contract in 2005 and was collecting housing assistance payments from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development until the contract was suspended in 2008, when the federal agency cited the company for "failure to maintain the project in a decent, safe and sanitary condition."
It also said Dr. Baig and his family contributed $11,800 to Mr. Johnson's campaigns between 2000 and 2005.
Dr. Baig's company had attempted to sell the property. The county brokered the partnership with Roots of Mankind, in which The Post reported that Dr. Baig was slated to receive $1.2 million.
A phone message left for Roots of Mankind was not returned. A woman who answered the phone at a listed number for Amina said Dr. Baig was not available and hung up.
• The acquisition and rehabilitation of Parkview at Laurel, a 153-unit affordable rental housing complex for the elderly, was granted $800,000 in Council Resolution 16.
Shelter Development was the listed developer on the project. The contact listing was the Shelter Group, a Baltimore-based real estate company. Jeffrey Hettleman, a principal partner and executive vice president of the Shelter Group and Shelter Development, said his company had not been contacted by authorities in connection with the investigation.
"We are not involved in any way," he said.
• The redevelopment of the three-story Singer Building in Mount Rainier for affordable housing units and street-front commercial units was granted $1.3 million in Council Resolution 16.
The project was handled by the nonprofit housing developer Housing Initiative Partnership Inc. Mosi Harrington, the executive director of the group, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
• The development of the 72 rental housing units for low-income and very low-income people on a vacant site of Livingston Road in Oxon Hill was granted $1.9 million in Council Resolution 16.
That project also was handled by the nonprofit Housing Initiative Partnership Inc.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Matthew Cella is The Washington Times’ Metro editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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