- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge yesterday threw out a citizen petition to bring the dismissal of Forest Heights Mayor Joyce A. Beck to a vote, leaving the town of about 2,600 officially without a mayor.

The Town Council must decide whether to call a special election for the office or appoint a mayor, officials said.

“We’re glad this chapter is over and we can move forward,” said Town Council member Myles Spires Jr. “It’s never a good thing when the public trust is tested in this way, but we are glad it’s over and we can get on with the town’s business.”

In November, the council approved a series of amendments to the town’s charter that included measures calling for Mrs. Beck’s removal and delegated executive authority to the council.

Supporters of Mrs. Beck had until late December to gather signatures for a referendum to vote on the issue, but officials said the petition was not submitted to the Town Council until January.

Judge Thomas Smith ruled that the petition was not filed on time, upholding a decision by the Town Council to not accept the signatures.

“The key thing is whether it was presented to the council or not,” council member George Wiggers said. “What happened was the petition was locked up in the safe in the town hall and unavailable to the council until January 5.”

The political turmoil began when the town’s former police chief filed assault charges against Mrs. Beck, saying she slammed a door on the arm of a police officer who was asking her for court documents.

Mrs. Beck fired the chief after she was served with the charges, then appointed herself chief of police.

Mrs. Beck also has been charged with slamming a door on a former council member after leaving an Oct. 19 council meeting.

Mrs. Beck could not be reached for comment yesterday. She is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 22 and has denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Wiggers said he hopes the council can move on from the mayoral issue and focus on the town’s problems, which he said include crumbling streets and overdue financial audits.

“It’s been very divisive in the town,” Mr. Wiggers said. “Hopefully, emotions cool down a bit so we can get on and get the job done.”

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