- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2011

Prince George’s Council member Leslie E. Johnson returned to work Monday, three days after she relinquished her county-issued vehicle, phone and computer in accordance with sanctions levied last week by her colleagues.

Johnson, who pleaded guilty June 30 to conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering, attended a meeting of the District Council — a name under which the nine-member County Council meets to decide planning and zoning matters.

She had been in virtual hiding since July 5, when she announced under pressure from council members and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III that she would resign July 31, rather than wait until after her scheduled Sept. 15 sentencing, as she initially intended.

On Friday, she gave up items including her vehicle, computer and council parking permit, days after the council voted in a closed session to strip her of the equipment.

Her compliance did little to satisfy council colleagues who have continued to call for her immediate resignation.

“We believe the public interest of the citizens and residents of Prince George’s County is best served by your resignation,” council Chairwoman Ingrid M. Turner, a Democrat, said last week in a letter to Johnson.

Johnson, a Democrat, is allowed by state law to continue serving until her sentencing. County law prohibits the council from removing her, unless she is deemed physically or mentally unfit to serve.

She pleaded guilty to the felony tampering charges after flushing a $100,000 check down a toilet and hiding nearly $80,000 in her underwear in November as federal investigators closed in on her husband, then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson, a Democrat.

Jack Johnson pleaded guilty in May to two felony charges involving thousands of dollars in bribes he solicited as part of a “pay-to-play” culture that federal authorities say he fostered throughout his two terms in office.

The council has barred Leslie Johnson from serving on committees since she took office in December, just weeks after her arrest. But even with the most recent sanctions, she will be allowed to collect her $1,870-a-week salary until leaving office.

Council members have declined to speculate on her reasons for staying, but have said her refusal to leave is depriving her constituents of full representation and slowing the transition for her eventual successor.

Several members did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

The county must hold a special primary election 45 to 60 days after Johnson leaves office, followed by a general election within 90 days of her departure.

Johnson won the seat last year after garnering nearly 41 percent of votes in a six-candidate Democratic primary. Her closest competitor, Derrick Leon Davis, was at 32 percent of the vote.

While there has been speculation about possible candidates to replace Johnson, one man who will not run is Samuel H. Dean, her predecessor who left last year after a maximum two terms to run unsuccessfully for county executive.

Mr. Dean, 75, could run again after being replaced briefly by Johnson, but he sent out an email this weekend saying he will not seek office. He endorsed Arthur Turner, who finished third in last year’s primary with 12 percent of the vote.

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