- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Agency firing housing inspectors

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is firing more than half of its housing inspectors after they failed to acquire certification.

The dismissals are part of a broader effort to improve the way the District deals with negligent landlords, officials said Tuesday.

They have begun to remove 18 of its 34 residential inspectors. Officials said they gave the inspectors 14 months to receive certification from the International Code Council and provided on-the-job training.

Eleven inspectors passed the test. Three did not have to because they were retiring, and two others were hired later and have a different timeline. The other 18 either did not take it or failed.

Inspectors from other city departments will help out until the agency can fill the vacancies.

Baby reported neglected dies

A second baby who was the subject of a neglect case by the District’s troubled Child and Family Services Agency has died, officials said.

Agency spokeswoman Mindy Good said late Monday that officials learned of the 4-month-old baby’s death earlier in the day. The announcement came as the agency was explaining a 2,000-case backlog at a D.C. Council hearing on the recent death of a 6-month-old boy.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, said it was his understanding that the teenage mother of the 4-month-old child “rolled over and slept on him.” No official cause of death had been released.

The case was part of the “backlog” of cases that have not been completed within 30 days, Mr. Wells said.

The city agency saw a sharp increase in cases following the January discovery of four dead sisters in a Southeast row house.

Fire causes club evacuation

A Republican social club on Capitol Hill was evacuated Tuesday after a kitchen fire.

The fire occurred at the Capitol Hill Club, a block from the Capitol, before 11 a.m., D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said. The blaze was caused by plastic dish racks being placed on a hot stove in a third-floor kitchen, he said.

The burning plastic caused heavy smoke on the third and fourth floors. There were no reports of injuries.

Company suspends shuttle service

A sightseeing-bus company has suspended its shuttle service to Washington Nationals games following the deaths of two passengers.

The two men were riding on the upper deck of the Open Top Sightseeing bus when their heads struck the bottom of an overpass Friday. The men died from their injuries.

Jim Rodio, a lawyer for Open Top, said the company is “deeply saddened by the accident and the loss of life.”

There had never been any such incident in the history of the company, which is based in Tuxedo, Md., Mr. Rodio said. Passengers are instructed to remain seated during rides, he said.

Regular tour services will continue, Mr. Rodio said, but the company’s shuttle service carrying Nationals fans has been suspended.

Police said they are investigating the men’s deaths.



Officer shot in city neighborhood

An officer wounded in a shootout Tuesday used a Taser on a combative man before the shooting started, police said.

The four-year veteran of the Anne Arundel County Police Department was among several officers who were shot at while investigating reports of a stolen car in the Brooklyn neighborhood in Baltimore, a police spokesman said. The officers returned fire, he said.

Police had not identified the man accused of shooting at the officers, but he was arrested and was being questioned, police said.

Witnesses told police the suspect pulled a gun and shot the 30-year-old officer, who was wearing a bulletproof vest. The officer was treated and released from a hospital.

Anne Arundel police were responding to reports of a stolen car near the Baltimore city line about 6:30 a.m. They crossed into the city limits after witnesses told them that men matching a description of the stolen-car suspects went into Baltimore, police said.


Officer indicted in fatal shooting

A Baltimore police officer has been indicted for voluntary and involuntary manslaughter after fatally shooting a man in January, state prosecutors said.

Thomas Sanders, 37, is charged in the death of Edward Hunt, 27, of Baltimore, at the Hamilton Park Shopping Center, in northeast Baltimore.

Officer Sanders’ attorney could not be reached for comment.

Sterling Clifford, a police spokesman, declined to comment on the indictment, which was announced Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Clifford has said the officer feared for his life after Mr. Hunt fought back during questioning at the shopping center on Jan. 30. But witnesses and family members said Mr. Hunt was unarmed and was shot in the back after he ran from the officer.

Officer Sanders will be arraigned Aug. 29.


Man admits to fraud scheme

A 61-year-old man has pleaded guilty to defrauding 71 companies of more than $2 million by using bogus credit lines to buy products.

Michael Murray, of Street, Md., pleaded guilty Tuesday to the estimated $2.3 million scheme, federal prosecutors said.

His plea agreement states he owned Chesapeake Supply Inc. and fraudulently created credit references to get a good credit line with a Miami business. Prosecutors said he also used the same concept in a scheme involving his business, Sinclair Enterprises Inc.

In both cases, companies sent him millions of dollars worth of products but never received payment, prosecutors said.

In November, FBI agents seized the fax machines Murray used in the scheme to establish fake credit references.


CEO named new school board head

James DeGraffenreidt is the new president of the Maryland State Board of Education.

Mr. DeGraffenreidt, a new appointee to the board, was chosen by board members as president Tuesday. He will serve a one-year term, succeeding Dunbar Brooks.

Mr. DeGraffenreidt is chairman and chief executive officer of Washington Gas Light Co.

Blair Ewing was chosen as vice president. He and Mr. DeGraffenreidt were appointed to the board by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat.

Mr. O’Malley thanked the board for its choices and said Maryland should continue to see “accelerated success rates” from its students.

Standardized test scores released Tuesday for grades 3 through 8 showed steady gains statewide and significant improvement by Baltimore city students. Maryland’s public schools were recently ranked third in the nation by Education Week.


Fundraising close in 1st District

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris is the fundraising leader in the race for an open congressional seat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, according to second-quarter reports released by the campaign Tuesday. However, the Democratic nominee - Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Frank M. Kratovil Jr. - has narrowed the gap.

In the quarter ending June 30, Mr. Harris, Baltimore County Republican, raised about $532,000. Mr. Kratovil raised $376,000.

Mr. Harris had about $609,000 cash on hand, to Mr. Kratovil’s $454,027. After the first quarter, Mr. Harris’ lead was much wider.

Mr. Harris knocked off nine-term incumbent Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican, in a February primary. Though the district has been in Republican hands since 1991, Democrats think they can pick up the seat this fall and have signaled they’ll ramp up fundraising efforts for Mr. Kratovil.


Gas costs cancel re-enactment

The organizer of a re-enactment of the Civil War’s Battle of Funkstown says high gas prices have forced them to cancel the annual event.

The event, planned for this weekend, was canceled because such low turnout was expected, organizer Rob Benedict said. There were two battles to be re-enacted, one in the park and one on the town’s streets.

Mr. Benedict said he heard from three Union re-enactor groups, but no Confederate re-enactor groups. In the past, a large number of re-enactors portraying both sides showed up for the event.



Bodies of two fishermen found

Authorities recovered the bodies of two men from Woodbridge who had been missing since they left Sunday for a Potomac River canoe trip.

Juan Lopez, 35, and Jose Alexander, 33, left from Wayside Park about 2:15 p.m. Sunday to go fishing.

The men told family members they would be gone for a couple of hours, authorities said. Family members called 911 when they did not show up by about 6:30 p.m.

A commercial crabber found Mr. Alexander’s body a mile north of the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge on Monday morning, said Maryland Natural Resources Police spokesman Sgt. Ken Turner. Rescuers found Mr. Lopez’s body several hours later and about 500 yards north.

The cause of the deaths remained under investigation.


County aims to prevent sinkholes

Loudoun County officials have decided to develop new land use regulations to protect residents from sinkholes.

Dozens of sinkholes have opened up in recent years. Many of them were less than a foot wide, but officials said at least two were 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep.

Another in 2005 created a chasm in the middle of Route 15. No one has been hurt.

The problem stems from rapid development of land that rests on soft, porous limestone, county officials said.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution of intent Tuesday to amend the county’s zoning ordinance with special regulations for the limestone area.

Under the proposed rules, builders would have to take steps to minimize the risk of sinkholes. Homeowners would have to be educated about the danger of groundwater contamination, which is another risk of building on limestone. From wire dispatches and staff reports



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