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P.G. County issue report on how to shake ethics woes

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Prince George's County officials have released a report suggesting several changes to help the county shake its longtime ethics woes.

The report was issued by the Accountability, Compliance and Integrity Advisory Board — a six-member panel established this year by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, a Democrat. It details ways that the county can tighten enforcement of its officials, including strengthening the county Board of Ethics, making it easier to report fraud and establishing an internal office to independently monitor officials' conduct.

The report, issued Monday, comes in the wake of several scandals involving county politicians, such as former County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat who pleaded guilty last month to federal extortion and witness tampering charges. He was initially charged in what prosecutors have called a probe into widespread corruption throughout the county.

Mr. Johnson's wife, County Council member Leslie Johnson, a Democrat, is facing charges of evidence tampering after allegedly plotting to destroy a $100,000 check and hide nearly $80,000 in her bra during a November FBI raid on her home.

The report's most noteworthy recommendation is the appointment of a county inspector general who would conduct random audits and oversee conduct by county officials. Other suggestions included creating a hotline to report unethical conduct and providing a dedicated staff and subpoena power to the county Board of Ethics.
Mr. Baker, who was elected last November, said during campaigning last year that he favors having an inspector general.

Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Mr. Baker, said Tuesday that the county executive and council will review the report, but there is no timeline for when or how they could act on the recommendations.

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