- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Norton helps push schools takeover bill

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton yesterday introduced a bill aimed at congressional approval of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s proposed takeover of the city’s public schools.

The D.C. Council approved Mr. Fenty’s shift in school governance by a 9-2 vote April 19, and Congress and the president must approve the plan.

Mrs. Norton’s bill will be marked up by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today.

The measure, if approved, will allow the public school system to be elevated to a Cabinet agency under the mayor’s office. It also will repeal the section of the Home Rule Act that established the Board of Education in its current form.

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, also introduced a bill that would increase the salary of D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi from $186,600 to about $279,000.

The increase was promised to Mr. Gandhi after D.C. officials learned that he was considering leaving his job to manage the finances of Amtrak. That bill also is scheduled for a markup today.

Barry wants study of tollbooth use

D.C. Council member Marion Barry plans to introduce legislation today to establish a commission that would study placing tollbooths at the District’s borders.

“Every other jurisdiction in America has the right to set up tolls to defray infrastructural costs associated with transportation — why shouldn’t we?” said Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat and former D.C. mayor.

Under Mr. Barry’s proposal, the commission would study the feasibility of using a tollbooth system and would publish a report of its findings. The study would consider the locations, structure, traffic and economic impact of such a program.

Mr. Barry said tollbooths could allow the District to recoup revenue lost from visitors who use the District’s roads, bridges and emergency services “without any obligation to contribute financially” to the city.

“Fairness dictates that Congress relaxes the restrictions on the city’s ability to recapture some of this revenue through tollbooths, or enable us to directly tax nonresidents through a commuter tax,” Mr. Barry said.



Man charged in druggist shooting

Frederick police have charged a man in the shooting of a pharmacist who was wounded in a robbery attempt Sunday afternoon.

Maynard Mangold, 52, was arrested without incident yesterday morning at his home after witnesses described his vehicle to police.

Mr. Mangold is charged with attempted second-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and other offenses in the attack on CVS druggist Lee Gustafson.

Mr. Gustafson, 63, who was substituting for the regular pharmacist, was shot once in the upper chest by a man who demanded narcotics at the store’s drive-through window.


2 dead, 3 injured in club shooting

Five persons were shot, two fatally, early yesterday at a social club that had been rented for a birthday party, Baltimore County police said.

Between 100 and 200 people were inside the Arbutus Social Club when a man fired shots about 1 a.m. and ran off, said Bill Toohey, a police spokesman.

No witnesses have come forward to tell investigators what happened, and police do not have a description of the gunman, Mr. Toohey said. The subject of the argument that led to the shooting is not known.

Two men were killed, and the two wounded men and wounded woman were taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Mr. Toohey said. He did not know their conditions, but he said their injuries were not life-threatening.

The dead men were identified as Edward Wayne Johnson, 25, and Michael Johnson, 31, both of Baltimore. The men were not related, police said.


Missing mom thought to be still alive

Police in Frederick said the mother of four children who were slain by their father in March is probably alive.

Lt. Thomas Chase said there have been numerous unconfirmed sightings of Deysi Benitez, 25, in the United States, Honduras and El Salvador.

“Until we find her deceased, the focus of the investigation is to consider the fact that she is alive,” he said.

For weeks, investigators gave equal weight to the theories that Mrs. Benitez was dead or alive, but Lt. Chase said because of persistent reports of sightings, they are now inclined to think the latter.

The bodies of the children, ages 1 to 9, were found March 26 in the family’s town house in Frederick along with the body of their father, Pedro Rodriguez.

Lt. Chase said police confirmed that Rodriguez, who was married to Mrs. Benitez, killed the children and then hanged himself.


Two more women’s deaths ruled slayings

The deaths of two women whose bodies were found in Harford County last year have been ruled homicides, according to the state medical examiner’s office.

Jennifer Lynn Blankenship, 26, and Joyce Ann Toliver, 51, were among four women who were last seen in May or June last year and whose bodies were found in remote locations south of U.S. Route 40.

Both were homicide victims, said medical examiner’s office spokeswoman Shirl Walker.

At the time, investigators said they thought the deaths were linked to a common suspect.

Charles Eugene Burns, 35, was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the death of one of the four women, Lillian Abramowicz Phelps.

Prosecutors have said they could not bring charges in the deaths of the other women until autopsies were complete, and they declined to discuss the possibility of other charges being filed against Burns.

Medical examiners found “no identifiable anatomic or toxicologic cause of death” for the fourth woman, Sheila Ann Turner, 42, and her cause of death is officially listed as “undetermined.”


Gates to speak at academy graduation

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is scheduled to speak at the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduation, the academy announced yesterday.

The graduation and commissioning ceremony for the class of 2007 is set for May 25 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Mr. Gates, 63, was sworn in as defense secretary in December. He served as director of the CIA from 1991 until 1993.



Contractor sentenced for polluting reservoir

A contractor for a Mecklenburg County highway project was sentenced yesterday to 30 days in prison and fined $1,500 for polluting the J.H. Kerr Reservoir, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

Loch Lawrence Louman, 47, of Gig Harbor, Wash., pleaded guilty in February to depositing refuse into a navigable waterway. He had faced a maximum of one year in prison and a $25,000 fine.

According to court documents, the Virginia Department of Transportation awarded a contract to complete the Clarksville bypass project. The project involved expansion of U.S. Route 58 south of the existing bridge and construction of a new bridge across the reservoir.

Louman, the construction project manager, admitted that he was responsible for dumping concrete slurry — a mixture of water, concrete and plasticizer — into the reservoir when a concrete pump failed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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