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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

PG Council selects new ethically-challenged leaders

(Posted 5 Dec 2007)
The December 5 Washington Post reports: "The Prince George's County Council elected David Harrington (D-Cheverly) chairman yesterday . . . The council elected Marilynn Bland (D-Clinton) as its vice chairman."

Looking back at just a few of the many past news stories about these scoundrels:
  • Prince George's Taxpayers Pick Up Officials' Personal Tabs; Records Show Thousands of Dollars Charged to County-Issued Cards in Violation of Policy (Post, 20 Nov 2006)
    Prince George's County Council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly), needed a shirt for his pastor's funeral in 2003, so he bought one for $37.99 at a Temple Hills store called Uniforms & Lingerie Inc.

    When he wanted a haircut, he got one for $21 at Hair Designers Plus in Hyattsville. And when he decided he wanted to get in shape, he bought a gym membership for $300 at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover.

    Each time, taxpayers picked up the tab, according to county records.

    Harrington is one of several Prince George's officials, including County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who have used county-issued credit cards to pay for personal expenses totaling thousands of dollars, violating county policy.
  • Credit Card Use Probed By U.S., Sources Say (Post, 19 May 2007).
    Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the use by Prince George's officials of county-issued credit cards to charge personal expenses totaling thousands of dollars, according to a law enforcement official and another source with knowledge of the probe. . . . The expenses detailed in The Post's report included a $37.99 shirt and a $21 haircut bought by council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly). He also charged $1,200 for six-month gym memberships for himself and three staff members. . . .
  • What's Yours Is Mine; Especially if you live in Prince George's County -- and I am elected to serve you (Post editorial, 25 Nov 2006).
    In Prince George's, several County Council members seem to think there's no reason to reach into their own pockets for haircuts, gym memberships, rental cars, office decorations, family vacations or golf outings when they can whip out their county charge cards and reimburse the public in their own good time -- or not. . . . Mr. Harrington, who seems to use his county card whenever he's short on cash, has charged the county for dry cleaning, video rentals, a haircut and airplane tickets for his college-age son, among other expenses. . . . Prince George's County has had similar problems over the years -- in 2000, for instance, when council member Marilynn Bland, then a school board member, charged the county for a family trip to Disney World.
  • School board audit finds accounts abuse (Gazette, 21 Sep 2000).
    A draft audit of the Board of Education and upper level school system management indicates a double-standard between treatment of board officials and system employees, lax accounting methods, widespread abuse of individual expense accounts and contractual agreements, and weak controls over reimbursements. . . . Bland spent board funds on materials that could be construed as campaign related, mixed business and personal travel and chronically over-spent her limits.

    She purchased buttons and magnets with her name, photo and telephone number printed on them at a cost of $1,690. Although auditors characterized the items as potential campaign-related material, the items included her comments that they were not used to influence elections. The magnets were purchased two months before the March 2000 primary election, in which Bland was a candidate for her board seat.

    Bland was also chastised in the audit for a newsletter published and distributed by the school system three days before her primary election at a cost of $7,747.

    Although the school superintendent told Bland in a March 15 letter to reimburse the system for the expense, she has failed to do so, telling auditors the reimbursement came from the remnants of her board expense account for that fiscal year. The minutes of the executive session in which Bland was ordered to reimburse the charges are missing, auditors wrote. Henderson told auditors in an interview that Bland would be allowed to deplete her expense account to cover the charges, but must reimburse the system out of her own pocket for any amount that ran over her fiscal 2000 allotment.

    The audit also indicates Bland spent $15,502 through April of that fiscal year, $5,753 over her budget.

    Bland reimbursed the school system an unspecified portion of expenses incurred attending a 1998 business conference, which the member combined with a personal visit to Mississippi. The reimbursement, however, came two years later, after the audit had started.

    Bland also received a windfall of $1,373 for three years on top of the usual allotment because an accounting error apparently gave Bland her predecessor's stipend for serving as the board chair. Starting this year, the chair will not receive an additional stipend.

  • In School Board Race, the Issue Is Scandal (Post, 28 Oct 2000 (This link may require a PG library card)).
    The auditors said Bland spent $7,747 for a newsletter even though she had only $5,227 left in her account, but charged the school system for all of it. And she waited two years before repaying the system for personal purchases made on a school credit card during a trip to a professional conference in Florida, the audit noted.
The lack of integrity demonstrated by both of these Democratic politicians is well-known and well-documented

Nevertheless, the voters elected them and their council colleagues have rewarded their misbehavior.

Is this the best we can do in the way of elected officials?

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