A new task force in Prince George's County will meet soon, to examine ways to root out corruption from within the county government, a project following last year's federal probes that resulted in the arrests of several county officials and police officers, a county spokesman said. County Executive Rushern Baker has instructed the leaders of the Prince George's County Government Accountability, Compliance, and Integrity (ACI) task force to meet early this month to devise plans for creating an inspector general's office or similar watchdog organization, said Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker.
A specific meeting date for the first meeting has not yet been determined, he said.
The county government was rocked in November by news that then-County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, Leslie, were arrested during an FBI raid of their Mitchellville home. Authorities contend the duo conspired to destroy evidence linking them to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from a developer in return for favorable treatment. The FBI secretly recorded Jack Johnson telling his wife, now a county councilwoman, to flush a $100,000 check down the toilet and hide $80,000 in her bra.
That same month, the FBI arrested three Prince George's police officers in various crimes, including drug trafficking and attempting to sell untaxed cigarettes and alcohol.
Neither Jack Johnson nor Leslie Johnson -- who was not in office at the time of her arrest -- have been indicted on the charges yet. But that could change for the duo between now and Feb. 16, when a preliminary hearing in federal court has been scheduled for the couple.
Last week, after petitioning from Jack Johnson's attorneys, a federal judge ruled that the former county executive could remove his court-ordered electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. Brian K. McDaniel, an attorney counseling Jack Johnson, declined to comment.
Baker's task force aimed at preventing future corruption will be led by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and longtime Prince George's Circuit Court Judge William Missouri. Their goal will be to "ensure that the internal review procedures and policies of Prince George's County are properly serving the residents of the county," Peterson said.
The task force will assess the county's existing ethics board and other oversight operations, while researching similar practices in other locales, he said. Additional task force members have not yet been named.
Glenn Ivey, the outgoing state's attorney in Prince George's County, said it's important that an inspector general's office doesn't complicate the efforts of already existing law enforcement agencies.
"I think you have to make sure you set that up in a way that everybody knows who is suppose to be doing what, and work together in a way that is going to be more efficient as opposed to people stepping on each other's toes or getting in turf wars," he said.