A former Maryland state delegate seeking the Republican nomination for governor has been disbarred from practicing law by a state court following a complaint by the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The Maryland Court of Appeals said in its ruling Thursday that Robin Ficker has been the subject of a long history of complaints of professional misconduct that expand over three generations of the bar counsel, The Washington Post reported.
In an email, Ficker said the ruling was “a political decision by recent political appointees. … My clients love me. It is judges and lawyers complaining.”
According to the court ruling, the disbarment stems from a case in which Ficker failed to appear for trial and made other mistakes. Ficker said the case, which occurred three years ago, involved a person accused of driving without a license who he represented for free but didn’t show up for a court date, and “They are blaming the attorney, come on.”
The disbarment was “a political decision. They are political appointees,” he said, adding, “Most judges don’t like defense attorneys as it is.” He speculated that the court was annoyed that he recently won a case in Calvert County that changed the rules for political signage.
Ficker said he could apply for reinstatement but won’t in the near future. He is a licensed real estate agent in Maryland, and “There is a hot market now,” he said. Also, running for governor is taking up time, he said.
“All you can do is light a candle. I am not going to curse the darkness.”
The 39-page ruling also said Ficker has been disciplined for professional misconduct eight times dating back to 1990.
Ficker is competing against former Maryland commerce secretary Kelly Schulz and Del. Daniel Cox, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.
Peter Shapiro, an unsuccessful candidate in 2010 for D.C. City Council, who for decades wielded extraordinary power over Democratic politics in the Prince George’s county was tapped to head the Prince George’s County Revenue Authority by former county Executive Rushern Baker in 2013. He was retained to the same role by current county Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Shapiro has now been nominated to be the next Prince George’s county Planning Board Chairman. Shapiro is currently in charge of the 100-person agency overseeing speed cameras, red light cameras, parking meters, and parking garages, and helps finance county construction projects, among other responsibilities with major ties to developers.
Shapiro, a Democrat, is a former member of the Prince George’s County Council and one time it’s former Chairman. He resigned in mid-term in 2004 to take a job at the University of Maryland. He also served on a task force examining ethics issues that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) established in 2011. He lives in the District.
The revenue authority has an annual budget of about $44 million. Shapiro, who begun work at the 100-person agency, is being paid more than $150,000. His appointment was confirmed by the authority’s board.
During his tenure, there has been multifaceted scheme to use public positions for unlawful private gain by the county executives and others. His leadership in Prince George’s county for several decades appears to enhance county Executive’s Angela Alsobrooks’ political power and financial well-being while also generating income for his political allies and associates some in the same council he once served.
“This is another chapter in the sad story of corruption that has pervaded every corner of the Prince George’s county and the state of Maryland that was touched by Peter Shapiro and his Democrat enablers. He does not even live in the county why should he be used to assist criminal politicians to raise money from developers using the county for private gain,” Jim Michael said.
Corruption comprehends and encompasses many types of behaviors, such as bribery, extortion, cronyism, misuse of information, abuse of discretion, hiring close friends and others to advance an illegal scheme.
Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. Forms of corruption vary, but can include bribery, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.
Democratic elections have been assumed to play a crucial role in curbing corruption among public officials. Voters, due to their general distaste for corruption, are expected to sanction politicians who misuse public office for private gains. Yet, empirical evidence to date is mixed, and it often suggests that the electoral punishment of corruption is rather mild which drives some politicians in the county starting with County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson and others to continue their shenanigan in the county.
WASHINGTON – Huggy Wuggy, a popular character from an online video game, is raising concerns among some parents of elementary school aged children.
According to Parents.com – the name sounds cute and cuddly – but the character is quite the opposite.
Here’s what they say you should now about the new social media trend:
What is Huggy Wuggy?
The character is an evil villain in a 2021 horror PC game called Poppy Playtime. It’s a survival horror game set in an abandoned toy factory and the Huggy Wuggy character tries to hunt down the players while singing them creepy songs.
What are kids doing?
Some schools are warning parents that kids are offering classmates hugs while recreating the songs sung by the Huggy Wuggy character.
Where are kids finding Huggy Wuggy?
Parents.com says kids may have access to the game or may be able to watch the videos on YouTube or TikTok. Some parental controls may have a hard time filtering the name because it sounds so cute, they say.
What are the concerns?
Some are saying the game is upsetting for young children and can scare and upset them — especially if they are not prepared for the horror-filled videos found online. Parents need to know what their children are watching and be available to help them answer questions about potential harmful trends online.
UPPER MARLBORO, MD — The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) District’s school naming committee is tasked with naming a brand-new elementary school in south Prince George’s county, and has narrowed the field to 4 possibilities — including a politician and army general as well as names based on local geography. The PGCPS system is therefore inviting the public to help name the new southern elementary school.
The first of public surveys had been scheduled online this week until today Friday, March 4th but Voting has been extended to Monday, March 7th, 2022, 12 noon.
The proposed (PGCPS) Preparatory K-8 public school which has faced major push back from southern community remains on course. “The new school is essentially a leech on the resources of the community, it exist totally out of any public control,” Samuel Dodges said.
Several civic associations led by Tantallon Square Area Civic Association (TSACA) continues to oppose an environmental degradation involving a forest being cleared for new school construction at Swan Creek Road and Fort Washington Road. In this area, flooding is a major concern for many residents. Standing flood waters can also spread infectious diseases, contain chemical hazards, and cause injuries. Each year, flooding causes more problems than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common flood issue occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood waters which causes death in many cases.
For the first survey despite pushback, PGCPS has invited the public to submit the preferred names for the new school, which is currently under construction at the intersection of Swan Creek Road and Fort Washington Road. PGCPS is seeking the public’s input on the finalists, now through March 7 at noon. — vote for your favorite here. Vote totals will be presented to the Current CEO Dr. Monica Goldson. Nominations are open to all citizens, including PGCPS staff, students, parents, and community members, and nominators may not submit more than one name. According to PGCPS website, a committee comprised of community liaisons, students, parents, and district representatives has developed a short-list of naming options for community members to select from. Final voting data will be utilized to inform the committee’s recommendation to PGCPS CEO, Dr. Monica Goldson who will then make an official recommendation to the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
Some citizens in the southern region close to the proposed new school which was launched in the midst of covid-19 lockdown and protests displayed dismay on the omission of the proposed names of the original owner of the land who gave it to PGCPS as gift for $10.
Full criteria are contained in PGCPS Policy and Rules regarding the naming of a new school. Want to know more about who’s who before you vote? Here’s a brief description of the 4 choices.
PGCPS naming options:
Colin Powell K-8 Academy
Colin L. Powell (Apr 1937 – Oct 18, 2021) was a United States general and statesman and the first African American to hold the positions of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. Powell was born in Harlem, New York in 1937 to Jamaican immigrant parents who stressed the importance of education and personal achievement. Powell received his bachelor’s degree in geology from the City College of New York. Powell authored two books, “My American Journey” and “It Worked for Me, Lessons in Life and Leadership” and was the recipient of numerous awards including a Purple Heart, Soldier’s Medal, and Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Fort Washington K-8 Academy
Fort Washington was constructed to defend the Potomac River approach to Washington, DC during the American Civil War and has stood as silent sentry for over 200 years. Fort Washington was the only defense for the Nation’s Capital until the Civil War when a circle of temporary forts was built around the city. Fort Washington still stands as a historic landmark in the community with its namesake.
Tantallon K-8 Academy
Tantallon is a community within Fort Washington, Maryland in which the new K-8 academy will exist. The name Tantallon was taken from Scotland’s fabled “Castle Tantallon” a once mighty fortress that towered over the forbidding waters of the Firth of Forth.
Swan Creek K-8 Academy
Swan Creek, is a stem of the Potomac River that traverses Fort Washington, Maryland and runs along the Tantallon Community nearby Swan Harbor and Swan Creek roads as well as Tantallon and Arrow Park drives. The new K-8 academy will be located at the intersection of E. Swan Creek and Fort Washington roads.
The new, 234,000-square-foot kindergarten through eighth grade school on wetland is scheduled to open to students for the 2023 -2024 school year.
The new K-8 school will replace the current elementary and middle school in Fort Washington. A spokesperson with the school system said the Board of Education has not determined what will happen to those school buildings once students are relocated. But there are concerns the current CEO and others connected to her and the county leadership are in link with developers to advance corruption in the county as seen elsewhere in recent past according to a resident who did not want to be identified. Call your elected officials now and the law enforcement community.
One of the newly elected Board of Education member Belinda Queen has resigned. A first-term board member, who has been tough but fair has been embroiled in controversy in recent months, announced her resignation Thursday on social media. Her resignation will take place on March 7th, 2022.
Belinda hit the ground running in 2019 after she got elected when she demanded answers after discovering corruption at High Point High School in Prince George’s County public Schools (PGCPS). “First question, which the public should be asking: What took anyone in the Board so long?”, She asked at the time. (See the report here).
Belinda becomes the 3rd Board member to resign after former Board of Education member now Councilman Edward Burroughs III resigned to run for county council District 8. Burroughs resignation was followed by Raaheela Ahmed, 28, who served on the district’s school board for the past five years. She steped down, effective Feb. 19, to run for the Maryland Senate seat, currently held by incumbent Ron Watson. He was appointed to the District 23 seat by Gov. Larry Hogan in August.
Belinda is resigning to run for county council District 6 after unearthing wide ranging system corruption on the county level.
School board members are largely unpaid volunteers, traditionally former educators and parents who step forward to shape school policy, choose a superintendent and review the budget. But a growing number are resigning or questioning their willingness to serve as meetings have devolved into shouting contests between deeply political constituencies over how racial issues are taught, masks in schools, ethics reports, COVID-19 vaccines and testing requirements etc.
School Board Tensions
School board members across the country have received threats and hateful messages, sparked by tense debates over mask mandates and other COVID-19 rules, LGBTQ books and the teaching of race. However, here in the Prince George’s county though, the local board is in tension after some Board members questioned how public land, money was being utilized to build new schools without transparency.
News of land being set aside for purposes of education and/or public use is typically met with celebration. But an increasing chorus of voices within Prince George’s County and the real estate industry is casting doubt on whether public money is being used properly throughout Prince George’s county. “We live in a time when Prince George’s county struggles mightily to adequately fund schools and social services. If we are going to expend funds for Education, the county should be paying current fair market value supported by analysis that would pass muster with private market buyers, said Matt Lowery.”
Her departure creates a vacancy on the school board. By law, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has the authority to appoint a replacement. Other departed board members have said they see the iron in that , given county Executive Alsobrooks wanted to have them removed through unorthodox means using drummed up ethics report.
Belinda is among the elected members of the school board that have pushed to see the structure of the board overhauled from a mix of appointed and elected members to an all-elected school board.
She and others have clashed repeatedly with board chair Juanita Miller, who holds one of the seats on the school board appointed by Alsobrooks.
Belinda was first elected to the Prince George’s County Board of Education in 2018 defeating Carolyn Boston overwhelmingly. However, she began her political career earlier. She first ran for the Prince George’s County Democratic State Committee, before running for the Prince George’s County Board of Education.
“ It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of District 6 and each and every scholar, Parent of PGCPS and the community… I feel honored to have accomplished everything that I ran to do in putting kids first ” ..Belinda wrote in among other issues in her resignation letter. To do otherwise, would have been the district failure.”It has been a pleasure working with each one of you,” she wrote.
Drummed up Ethics Charges.
After major fallout with county Executive Angela Alsobrooks last year, the ethics panel acting under orders above organized a scheme to deprive elected board members of their powers in the county. Thus, after the Prince’s George’s County School Board recommended that six elected board members either resign or be removed following an investigation.
The ethics findings are not public, but documents were reviewed by the press. They were also anonymously sent to each elected leaders throughout the county.
The ethics panel recommended the resignation or removal of Edward Burroughs, David Murray, Raaheela Ahmed, Joshua Thomas, Kenneth Harris and Shayla Adams-Stafford. The panel recommended sanctions for Belinda Queen.
“I know it’s supposed to be confidential, but somebody took it upon themselves to anonymously mail them around to elected officials in the county,” said Ivey. “And I happen to live with two of them.”
The ethics findings say board members violated policy when they hired a board lobbyist and when they decided to reorganize the board office, making staffing changes and prompting a “federal discrimination lawsuit.”
“I think they are riddled with inaccuracies and false on their face,” said Ivey of the findings.
Some board members are also accused of a pay-to-play scheme involving a labor union they received campaign contributions from.
Ivey said that the actual resolution passed by the board does not name the labor union in question and disputed the notion that there was anything unethical about the campaign donations.
Board chair Dr. Juanita Miller called for this ethics investigation soon after she was appointed by the county executive as board chair.
More recently, this group of elected board members petitioned the state to have her removed, making their own misconduct claims against Miller.
While there was a public board meeting at night, the primary discussion about the ethics investigation happened in executive session.
Six members, mostly appointed, voted to accept the findings. The seven members under investigation were barred from voting. This left them shaken to the core after County Executive Alsobrooks went after them for drummed up “ethics violations” until they ran scared for their dear lives as their political future was on the line. However, Alsobrooks is violating the law and her administration is engaged in violating peoples rights using the court system to punish some personnel in the school system and others opposed to their illegal schemes using lawyers tied to them, records show.
In our blog post recently, we cited the role the county Executive Angela Alsobrooks is playing in advancing public corruption in the county through violations of law including campaign finance. There is more involving the county Executive touching on new schools and the Tantallon Community. Whether falling under the label of political cronyism, crony capitalism, political party cartels, oligarchy, plutocracy and even kleptocracy, widespread patterns of private and public corruption construct social systems that are rigged in the private interest as seen in this case. Citizens with strong ethical principles (and citizens who lack significant funds, connections, favours to dispense, “hard power” over others such as guns or private enforcers) lose representation, influence and power.
The rule of law is fundamental to maintaining the freedoms of individuals in a society, and for the protection of people’s rights. You cannot ask the county citizenry and their kids to obey the law when you are violating it in many ways willfully yourself”, one parent who did not want to be identified said.
When corruption pervades the justice system, people can no longer count on prosecutors and judges to do their jobs. The powerful may escape justice. And citizens, especially those with few resources or few powerful allies, may be unfairly accused of crimes, deprived of due process, and wrongly imprisoned.
Khan was 71 and is survived by his wife and 16-year-old daughter, relatives said.
The teen suspect was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and carjacking, police said Wednesday.
“I just want justice for my husband, for me and my daughter, because I don’t want anything [like that] to happen to anybody else. He just put my life upside down,” Khan’s wife, Saba Rauf, said through tears at a police news conference Wednesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, officers stopped Khan’s stolen car at the intersection of Garrett A. Morgan Boulevard and Central Avenue in Landover. Three people were inside the car at the time: two juveniles and an adult, police said.
Officers took all three into custody, and the 17-year-old now charged in Khan’s murder confessed to killing him during the carjacking, police said.
“His murder was senseless. Another senseless act of violence,” Police Chief Malik Aziz said. “And now that person in custody is only 17 years old.”
“There should be harsh punishment for these youngsters who are doing this thing, because if there is no consequences, they will keep on doing it,” Khan’s nephew Agha Ali said at the news conference.
A second 17-year-old boy from D.C. was charged in connection with a carjacking on Marlboro Pike that happened hours after Khan’s murder, police said. Police said Khan’s stolen car was used in that carjacking.
The third person in the car,19-year-old Daquan Childs, of D.C., was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to police.
Khan was found lying in the 3700 block of Dunlap Street, a residential block. Officers responded at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday and found that Khan had multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
He was respected in his Fairfax County community, and more than 200 people called to express their condolences, Ali, his nephew, said.
“This guy was a community figure for 20 years, you know. He knew so many people,” Ali said. “These people, they don’t have no value. They just killed him and left him on the street, you know, like he’s nobody. This is the worst part of it.”
Khan moved to the U.S. from Pakistan in search of a better life, his family said.
“I don’t know what to do, because he was the pillar of our life, and now … my life is over,” Khan’s wife said. “When I told [my daughter] that I’m coming here, she said, ‘Just ask one question: Did my dad call my name when the guy shot him?'”
In 2017, Khan was hailed as a hero and received an award for bravery for intervening as an Alexandria, Virginia, police officer was attacked.
“He jumped in and he saved that police officer’s life,” Ali said.
Khan’s death comes amid a rash of violent carjackings committed by young people in the D.C. area. The crimes have been committed by children as young as 12, officials from the District and Prince George’s County said at a joint news conference last month.
Two former county health officers told state lawmakers that pandemic policy-making in Maryland has become dangerously politicized and that the state Department of Health routinely failed to support health officers who come under attack, even though they are state employees.
Former Harford County Health Officer David Bishai, who was fired by the Harford County Council in October, told a legislative panel that he was let go without cause after he provided sound health guidance.
Dr. Travis Gayles, who stepped down as Montgomery County’s health chief in August, told lawmakers that he and his staff received personal threats following a charged social media post from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) that same month.
The two men testified before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, which is co-chaired by Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard), a practicing physician, and Del. Marc B. Korman (D-Montgomery).
Bishai described being fired by Deputy State Health Secretary Jinlene Chan after “a closed door vote… on partisan lines” by the council.
Currently, local health officials serve at the pleasure of the local body that has authority over health policy and the state health secretary — meaning a local health officer can be terminated without cause.
“I was targeted in a twitter campaign and made the scapegoat for simply being the face of enforcement of the governor’s [COVID-19] executive order and MDH policies,” he testified. “The rage-tweeting really was started by members of the House of Delegates.”
Bishai, a physician and health economist who formerly worked at Johns Hopkins University, said he believes the attacks and subsequent dismissal came after he described the potential threat posed by “trombones and clarinets in a marching band.”
“The good advice is: If you want to stop aerosols containing COVID during a time of high transmission, you really do want to protect the students in the marching band,” he said. “I simply gave the scientific advice, but that gave prominent politicians a chance to posture.”
A request for comment from Harford County Council President Pat Vincenti (R) was not immediately returned.
Gayles said his relationship with state health officials shifted following an Aug. 1, 2020, tweet from Hogan opposing Montgomery County’s decision to temporarily close private and parochial schools.
“This is a decision for schools and parents,” Hogan wrote, “not politicians.”
“Health officers are not politicians,” Gayles told the committee. “This tone suggested that health care decisions were being made from a political angle.”
After the private school controversy, local health officers saw their decision-making power narrowed, Gayles said. The message was that health officers who exercised their local discretionary powers “would be ridiculed in public, knee-capped in those responses, and not supported in those decisions.”
He said the episode “set off a torrent of personal threats to me, my family and my staff.” He was given police protection and told to switch up his commuting patterns, and the county health office added new security precautions.
Gayles said local health officers were rarely consulted on key decisions involving testing, masking orders, vaccine distribution and equity policies — nor were they given any guidance before Hogan announced new policies at press conferences.
“It became, unfortunately, a guessing game and a joke of what was going to happen when press conferences were being developed, hamstringing local jurisdictions’ abilities to develop contingency plans and plans to roll out and explain to our residents what was happening,” Gayles told lawmakers. “In the case of a pandemic, this information could mean saving lives.”
Lam has introduced a bill that would make it harder for local health officers to lose their jobs.
His bill would give local elected officials and the state health secretary the power to fire the local health officer only for cause in cases of immorality, misconduct in office, insubordination, incompetency, or willful neglect of duty.
Lam’s bill was heard last week in the Senate Finance Committee, and its House cross-file, sponsored by Dels. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) and Shane Pendergrass (D-Howard), was heard last week in the House Health and Government Operations, which Pendergrass chairs. Neither bill has been voted on yet.
After the testimony, Lam expressed concern about the agency’s attitudes toward Maryland’s 24 local health officers. “It almost sounds as though they are toxic now,” he said.
Health Secretary Dennis Schrader was invited to testify at Tuesday’s hearing but declined, Lam said.
In a statement, agency spokesman Andy Owen said, “Local health officers have played a critical role in helping the state navigate the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the past two years, and each one of them has our gratitude.”
Del. Jefferson Ghrist (R-Middle Shore) sparred with the two former health officers, pushing back against their claims that politics interfered with their ability to carry out their duties.
“I would call it governance and not politics,” he said. Ghrist suggested that Bishai may have been fired because health policy was “taken out of the hands” of local elected officials, who he said are more “accountable” to the public.
“Our health officers were making public policy,” he added. “You guys were making decisions that you were enforcing and folks didn’t like it.”
Lawmakers hear from “whistleblower”
Legislators also heard testimony from Jessicah Ray, a state Department of Health clinician who used to oversee some of the state’s mobile vaccination sites. She said she was demoted after raising alarms about sites that were “dangerous and illegal to operate because they were not CDC-compliant and not properly staffed or resourced.”
She said she flagged issues repeatedly to dozens of agency superiors but was told by one that “we don’t need a Cadillac, just a Honda.”
She said “retaliatory actions,” such as being stripped of her duties and frozen out of meetings and files, “spiked” after she persisted in sharing her concerns.
The Baltimore Sun reported in February that Federal and state agencies are investigating allegations that MDH retaliated against Ray, who said she pushed health officials to notify potentially more than 1,000 patients who may have received spoiled vaccine doses and insisted they remediate problems at vaccine clinics run by state contractors.
She said there were other sites — those the agency put together with its own staff — that had “worse (CDC) compliance.”
“These sites operated with untrained staff, no clinical leader, no [epinephrine] in case of an emergency, and no vaccine tracking at all,” she alleged.
Owen said the agency “takes all concerns about safety seriously and does not condone any form of retaliation.”
Ray also alleged rampant favoritism in the push to set up vaccination sites.
“New employees would show up unannounced, hired because they are a friend of someone, not because they are qualified. We are unable to fire people that are incompetent because their father is a judge, they are the daughter of the current deputy, or they are friends with an executive. Instead they hire more expensive staff to support the incompetent staff and remove people that point out these problems,” she said.
Prince George’s legislators have reached consensus on a bill that would abolish four appointed seats on the county board of education. If it passes, the retooled board would consist of nine elected members plus a student.
The current hybrid board — with nine elected and four appointed members, with one student — was fashioned by the General Assembly in 2013 at the request of then-Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).
The return to an all-elected board is a priority for County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D). In January, a task force that she created recommended a return to an all-elected board in time for this year’s elections. But many Prince George’s delegates and senators said they were disinclined to move that quickly.
Under a compromise reached late Monday and expected to be voted upon later this week, the return to an all-elected board would take effect in 2024. The push to delay implementation of the changeover was led by Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s).
The executive and the delegation believe that the public solidly supports the return to an all-elected board, but lawmakers decided to pump the brakes on implementation. “Nobody wanted to rush this thing,” said Del. Nick Charles (D), chair of the county’s House delegation. “We realized there’s no true consensus around everything, so we wanted to give folks the time to study some of the other components” of the shift.
Some lawmakers feel burned by the late-filed bill that was submitted at Baker’s request in 2013 to establish the current hybrid board.
“There are a lot of loose ends that we need to pull together to make ensure that we get it right this time,” said Senate Delegation Chair Joanne C. Benson (D). “We need to take our time — but not too much time.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Alsobrooks said years-long dysfunction at the board played out “at a most inopportune time during the pandemic when all of their focus should have been on our children.”
While laying out the steps she took in forwarding the task force’s recommendations, Alsobrooks did not object to the proposed delay.
“The House Delegation is acting on key recommendations of our task force that will help ensure we have a Board that will be able to remain focused on providing the best educational opportunities for our children,” she said in the statement.
The Prince George’s school board has been mired in controversy on and off for years, prompting a series of changes in the panel’s structure, from all-elected to all-appointed to hybrid and eventually — it would appear — back to all-elected.
The current board, chaired by Juanita D. Miller, an Alsobrooks appointee, has been criticized for a spasm of personality-fueled disagreements that led to the filing of ethics charges and attempts to remove several members of the panel.
“There have been some very unfortunate situations and problems existing with the current school board, and people are complaining about it,” said Benson, a former educator who cautioned future members not to stray from their lane.
“Not everybody sitting on the school board can be the superintendent,” she said.
Under the compromise proposal, the nine members of the school board would be elected by district and they would choose their own chair and vice-chair. Currently the county executive determines the board’s leadership.
The measure also establishes a workgroup, made up of county leaders and educators, that will be tasked with preparing a recommendations to help the new board function more effectively. That report will be due by Oct. 1, 2023.
Del. Julian Ivey and then-Del. Ron Watson (both D-Prince George’s) introduced bills last year to abolish the board’s appointed members, but they died without a vote.
“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a legal maxim meaning that if a legal remedy is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming promptly, it is effectively the same as having no remedy at all. The delay in PGCPS does not help the county residents when the executive is busy scheming on how to close down schools and open new ones in none transparent manner.
Tantallon Community (Reform Sasscer) – The proposed Prince George’s county public schools (PGCPS) Preparatory K-8 public school which has faced major push back from southern community remains on course. “The new school is essentially a leech on the resources of the community, it exist totally out of any public control,” Samuel Dodges said.
Several civic associations led by Tantallon Square Area Civic Association (TSACA) continues to oppose a forest being cleared for new school construction at Swan Creek Road and Fort Washington Road where flooding is a major concern for many residents. Standing flood waters can also spread infectious diseases, contain chemical hazards, and cause injuries. Each year, flooding causes more problems than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common flood issue occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood waters which causes death in many cases.
“It’s been determined that the land that they are planning to build the school is on wetland and there are better option at Potomac Landing elementary school with enough space just like the way they are building the other 5 schools. This should not be an exception as the area will see a rise in various problems starting with congestion, destruction of wet lands and ecological systems, pollution and many other issues. There are a lot of wild animals in the forest including deers which go in there. The flooding is major issue and the current sewage system is not adequate to accommodate an additional population of 2,000. The way this project was rushed raises a lot of suspicion because the people who live here where not consulted over their objection. We only found out when they were having a press conference,” said Tantallon Square Area Civic Association President Hazel Robinson.
The kindergarten through eighth grade school would hold 2,000. It’s part of the county’s more than $1 billion public-private partnership plan to build six news schools.
“We have been in the dark. Just weren’t included, and our input wasn’t asked for on what we felt about having a school here, there is something very fishy going on even the way the trees are being uprooted right in the middle of the night. Something smell like a dead rat” said Mike Johnson of the Tantallon Square Area Civic Association (TSACA).
Details of the rapidly moving construction plan are spawning protests, especially after parents were told some schools would be temporarily relocated during construction.
Protests started last August and are ongoing. There have been protesters and a prominent person in the community associated with TSACA was arrested last year and taken to the police station. Their presence have been felt along the Swan Creek Road beginning of August last year. The protestors successfully halted tree clearing for the planned school before the construction continued. At the moment the contractors are proceeding on again — a 234,000-square-foot kindergarten through eighth grade school on wetland. Many residents said they’re in favor of the new school but not the current location.
Potomac Landing elementary school
“PGCPS should have renovated Potomac Landing elementary school which is less than a mile away instead of building a brand new school on a wetland and destroying the environment,” Rose Lowdon, said of the new school proposal. “While many people think renovating existing facilities is more expensive and time-consuming than building new ones, that’s not always the case. In fact, renovation can often be accomplished for less than the cost of a new building. It just requires careful planning and conscientious effort. Improvements do not happen by chance. They happen because district administrators, parents, teachers and community leaders actively participate in a planning process aimed at making the area a better place to live, learn, work and play. In this case, none happened like that here. There is bad will from the community towards this new school due to the due process violations and public corruption involved,” Lowdon said.
In a meeting with the Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in August last year, residents were told construction will continue. However, there are questionable activities especially with some developers donating huge junks of money to her political campaign.
“We had real high hopes from Angela but it appears she is being used by developers to make money from the entire project at the expense of this community. I voted for her last election, I’m so disappointed with her that our meeting was a joke and nothing came out of it,” resident Jennifer Thompson said.
According to the press briefings from last year, “[Alsobrooks] said firmly that she does not intend to change the site, although she’ll make every attempt to try to address concerns. The neighborhoods in the area floods heavily after a hard rain.
“This is unacceptable,” said Marvis, a Prince George’s county native and former Brooklyn school educator who moved to the Prince George’s County thirty five years ago as part of fellowship to go to school in the region and decided to stay. “We shouldn’t be losing trees and damaging the environment without proper checks and balances because there are alternatives, free options available.”
“As we speak today, there are parents that are frustrated, and they are coming out of the district as we speak today, because they feel this was done undemocratically and don’t have choices,” Lane said.
“Whatever is driving this school system it is not being driven to serve the students. Whoever got the Covid relief money is celebrating, because it certainly was not the students, teachers or support staff. The disfunction is so pervasive that even veteran teachers can’t gather the fortitude to care anymore!”, said another staff members who cares.
School renovation is cost effective
School renovation is cost effective, and cheaper than new construction. With aging school facilities, shrinking budgets and declining school enrollments, many school districts are choosing to renovate rather than building new because it’s cheaper.
School enrollment is declining. Budgets are shrinking. Faced with these realities, more and more school districts are choosing to renovate rather than replace existing schools. There are many people in the community questioning what will happen to the current elementary schools which will combine once the new bigger school is finalized at Tantallon. Most elected official in Prince George’s county who might be benefiting from this corruption are reluctant to revert back to an all elected board.
The current board, chaired by Juanita D. Miller, an Alsobrooks appointee, has been criticized for a spasm of personality-fueled disagreements that led to the filing of ethics charges and attempts to remove several members of the panel after the questioned how public funds where being utilized through developers only known to the CEO, County Executive and others tied to them.
Grand corruption is the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many. It typically has three main features:
A systematic or well-organised plan of action involving high-level public officials that causes serious harm, such as gross human rights violations.
Oftentimes, these public officials even give the contract to a company of which they themselves are the beneficial owner; the majority of grand corruption cases include the use of anonymous shell companies to secretly move financial assets, according to the World Bank.
Through grand corruption, vast amounts of public money are systematically siphoned off to the accounts of a few powerful individuals, at the expense of citizens who should actually benefit. Financial institutions and other enablers assist those involved in laundering the proceeds.
When grand corruption and state capture happen, high-level officials may also use control over legislative and regulatory powers to legalise their activities and to weaken oversight and enforcement functions.
Typically, those involved in grand corruption benefit from impunity by interfering directly with the justice system and stymieing enforcement in order to thwart being held to account. Using the levers of state control, they may also suppress independent efforts by civil society and the media to investigate and expose corruption.
How does it affect you?
If you live in a country with political leaders enriching themselves on public funds, this will affect your life on countless levels. Infrastructure, health care, education – all of these vital necessities, and many more, will be massively underfunded, depriving you of basic rights and services. It may even put lives at risk through products of inferior quality and poorly constructed facilities.
Grand corruption is a huge barrier to sustainable development as seen here in PGCPS. Even if you live in a country or county where grand corruption is not an issue, you should care – because sustainable development affects all of us. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global effort towards a better future and the impact of grand corruption on them is far more destructive than from other forms of corruption. At the same time, less is being done about it.
On or around September 7, 2021, a month after the questionable construction and prince George’s county parents protest begun, then, Board Member Edward Burroughs III made a video to educate the public what was going on. It’s around this time when county Executive initiated a process to remove several Board members using the state machinery. This development would have a great impact on the environmentally peaceful area by adding increased flooding, traffic, light and noise pollution to the surrounding neighborhoods a petition signed by more than 2151 citizens says.
Nancy Bhargava organized marches throughout the neighborhood nearly six weeks before the construction begun to protest the proposed school.
“We’re concerned that we have been ignored. Our community, the residents here have been dismissed,” said Bhargava.
“I’m concerned because we are going to be losing a lot of tree canopy. The tree canopy absorbs the water and prevents the water from flowing out into the road and into my house, my backyard and my neighbor’s yard and causing serious issues,” said Bhargava to the press.
Ed Burroughs, a former member of the Prince George’s County Board of Education representing District 8 and now a councilman for the same District, was at a previous march talking with homeowners before and after he became a councilman. His problems at the Board with other Board members begun after they started questioning the secrecy and the public corruption surrounding the construction of the school and others.
In a letter sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George’s County Public Schools on March 23, 2021, board member Edward Burroughs wrote “I am writing to convey concerns that I have received from members of the community regarding the proposed site for the new Southern Area K-8 School. These members raised a variety of concerns in over an hour-long exchange between constituents and some of their elected officials.”
The letter went on to say, “Members of the community have expressed a strong desire to temporarily suspend construction activity surrounding the Southern Area K-8 School in order to allow the Board Chair to convene the proposed stakeholder meeting and discuss alternative locations for the school. I support the community in their request and I hope that the request for a pause in the development of this site can be granted. I look forward to continuing to work with you to successfully build a new Southern Area K-8 middle school while also addressing the flooding and traffic concerns raised by members of the community.”
As stated above, some homeowners worry that the tearing down acres of the wooded area which has been going will increase flooding in a neighborhood already prone to floods. They worry the problem will get significantly worse when construction begins which has been ongoing.
Other homeowners worry about the impact on traffic. The proposed location is near Indian Head Highway, a roadway known to be dangerous.
“Being here on Swan Creek Road, if you are here at any time of the day, cars come down here at least 50 miles per hour so it is not safe for our residents nor is it safe for any of the children,” said Anthony Mitchell, a homeowner.
Now some homeowners are trying to delay construction until they can work out these issues.
“They need to stop and they need to go through a comprehensive independent assessment of where we are as a community and what needs to be done,” said homeowner Brian Woolfolk.
In a statement posted online, the then District 8 Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker now running to be a deputy governor asked for a comprehensive study to be done before construction begun.
“Flooding in South County is a historical and resource-draining scourge throughout District 8. My concerns with this project have always been directed at the flooding impact on the residents who live in closest proximity to the school on Swan Creek Road, as well as the potential for increased flooding in surrounding neighborhoods,” said Anderson-Walker. “Ensuring the project planners are giving EVERY consideration to environmental, traffic, and flood mitigation strategies and solutions through engagement with the community, independent third-parties, and an objective analysis of the school’s master plan and proposed stormwater management plan, is paramount,” Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker wrote on March 28th, 2021.
Through the Blueprint Schools Program and without proper transparency such as in the case of Tantallon school construction project, PGCPS is accelerating the delivery of six new state-of-the-art schools in Prince George’s County, MD. One of the six is a new K-8 Academy, currently under construction in Fort Washington, MD, within the Tantallon community. Many parents in this area are opposed to the construction of the school due to the historical public corruption going back to former county Executive Jack Johnson. The big ties to developers are at play currently and the grand corruption which begun years ago.
By Ivy Lyons: Prince George’s County police have confirmed that a set of fireworks startled casino patrons and resulted in a mass exit and property theft at MGM National Harbor.
The fireworks, according to a police spokesperson, were released inside the building, causing some patrons to rush outside of the building.
While police said an investigation is ongoing into the Saturday night event, they acknowledged that property was stolen following the explosion. MGM National Harbor has not confirmed the details of any theft on the property but did say that they are working closely with police to investigate the matter.
Margaret Moore Kellett, a visitor and former reporter in attendance Saturday night, called the night one of the most harrowing of her lifetime.
“All of a sudden, we saw people running,” Moore Kellett told WTOP. “An enormous crowd of people running towards the door.”
Meanwhile, social media posts grew as patrons and area residents voiced concerns about the exodus. An exit that Moore Kellett said was tough to navigate when they had so little information or time to react.
“Another couple was standing there and we understood that it was a bomb threat and an active shooter,” she said.
Some online commenters used similar language, describing an active shooter or loud gunshots in the casino, saying that they should “grab some chips” on the way out. Other reports claimed that something as small as a set of fireworks might have been set off in the area.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said during a briefing Monday that a fire alarm was triggered, “intentionally or not.” And then people headed for the exits as someone set off fireworks.
“And fireworks sound very closely related to gunshots,” Aziz said. “And that even created more panic in the attempt to exit the MGM.”
The chief added that the theft or thefts happened during the panic, but authorities are still working to figure out the exact sequence of events.
“I don’t want to go that far to say it was coordinated, because this could have been a series of events that some opportunist decided to take advantage of, or it very well could have been the same people who triggered the fire alarm, who set off some fireworks, and then subsequently made some thefts,” Aziz said.
WTOP reached out to the security team at MGM National Harbor for information on the event or any impacts to their services — they have declined to comment.
WTOP also reached out to public information officers, managing security personnel, hotel management and communications staff. While some calls were answered with no comment, most calls were cut off after being transferred to staff.
In either event, attendee Margarett Moore Kellett said that more information is needed so that patrons can feel safe visiting the space.
“I would look into this seriously,” she said. “I know that in the past they had had some shooters, and I did not know about this previously.”