- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge yesterday temporarily prohibited the Forest Heights Town Council from removing its mayor from office, saying the council overstepped its bounds when it voted to oust Joyce A. Beck.

The council approved 12 amendments to the town’s charter in November. The amendments included measures that called for Mrs. Beck’s removal and delegated executive authority in the town to the council.

The measures were to take effect yesterday, but Judge James Lombardi ruled that the council’s decision Thursday night to finalize Mrs. Beck’s ouster could constitute a violation of law.

“Joyce Beck is the mayor of Forest Heights,” Mrs. Beck said yesterday. “And until the judge or the people decide otherwise, my term ends May 2.”

Mrs. Beck said the judge will hear arguments regarding the case Jan. 17.

The council approved the measures in November following a public feud between town officials and Mrs. Beck that began when she purportedly slammed a door on the arm of a police officer who was asking her for court documents.

Michael Eubank, the police chief at the time, filed assault charges and said Mrs. Beck told him that investigating the matter would be “career-ending.” Mrs. Beck fired Chief Eubank after she was served with the charges, then appointed herself chief of police.

Mrs. Beck also is facing assault charges for reputedly slamming a door on a former council member after storming out of an Oct. 19 council meeting. She is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 22 and has denied wrongdoing.

On Thursday, the council also voted 4-3 to reject a petition signed by 400 residents that would bring the amendments to a public vote. Ward 3 council member Worthington Ross said the petition was not submitted in time and there was no way for the council to verify the signatures.

“It was not properly submitted, according to Article 23A of the Maryland state constitution,” Mr. Ross said.

If the amendments had taken effect, the council would have had the authority to elect a new mayor. Ward 1 council member George Wiggers said the council has done that in the past — once when the mayor died in office and twice when the mayor resigned.

Forest Heights is a town of about 2,600 on the D.C.-Maryland line.

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