FROM THE EDITORIAL BOARD- Johnson case is a test in leadership for the council

Council Chairwoman Ingrid Turner who has not called for Leslie Johnson to resign.

Regular readers of this blog will know it is not common for us to engage in much editorial or opinion writing. It is true we write stories that may carry our personal bias but we don’t write simply off of our opinion, until today.

When Jack and Leslie Johnson were first both arrested for charges of corruption last year many in Prince George’s, including a good number of us, felt the media was focusing too much attention on casting a much too wide net and not placing enough blame on those at the heart of the issue. Editorials last year blasted our elected officials for their near unified silence on the issue. Yes it is true the top priority for this government should be to create jobs, grow our economy, fully fund our schools, and keep the streets clean, but to put our heads down in the sand and ignore the elephant in the room is just too much.

Last December we didn’t join the calls for Leslie Johnson not to take office. Some of the members of our editorial board felt she shouldn’t be sworn in but we understood the law and even held out some higher belief in the constitution that she was innocent until proven (or she plead) guilty. She has done that and now is the time to step down and should she decide not to then her colleagues on the council should help her make that decision. Putting it simply it should be made clear that her continued service on the council would not be acceptable nor comfortable. This is a moment for leadership and that is just what Chairwoman Ingrid Turner and others can provide immediately.

Yesterday just hours after Johnson plead guilty Executive Rushern Baker said, “I believe the process of healing should not be delayed or deferred”. He was right. He also said, “It is in the best interest of Prince George’s County that Council Member Leslie Johnson resigns from the County Council.” He is right again. That is the same message her friend, sorority sister, and colleague Ms. Turner should send. It is also the message her other colleagues Ms. Toles, Mr. Patterson, Mrs. Harrison, Ms. Lehman who also have not called on her to resign should send. They can start as soon as their next meeting by passing a resolution of no-confidence and calling on Mrs. Johnson to resign. Yes it is a purely ceremonial but it will let Johnson know clearly where the legislative body of Prince George’s County stands. Ms. Turner can go even further. We know that Ms. Turner had been advised that the council has wide latitude to strip Johnson of other discretionary privileges such as a staff budget. The Washington Post is reporting Johnson has a number of events coming up such as a business card exchange. Turner and the council should strip the funding for those programs as well as any support for them.

The decision of if or when Leslie Johnson will resign before October 13th is totally up to Johnson alone. The acts she committed her for Johnson to atone for alone. However allowing Johnson to remain an active member of the council for three more months taking in $28,000 in taxpayer dollars after being the reason the county will already be forced hundreds of thousands of dollars in a special election is about leadership. Ms. Turner your time to step up is now.

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