In 2010 right after news broke that Jake and Leslie Johnson had been arrested and charged with corruption, attention turned to who would lead the Prince George’s Council. With Leslie Johnson refusing to step down, everyone knew the body would spend the year public eye. The battle was between the incumbent Vice-Chair Andrea Harrison, who had called for Leslie Johnson to step aside and not be sworn-in, and Ingrid Turner, who is a member of the same sorority as Johnson, and needed her vote to topple Harrison. In fact Turner, according to Jack Johnson, had promised to name Leslie Johnson to the powerful Economic Development Committee, a post she would be able to use supporting her husband’s corrupt deals. In the end Turner refused to comment on the Johnson situation and won enough votes to take the gavel from Harrison. It wasn’t until after the public pressure became too much that she supported efforts to strip Johnson of any committee assignments.
Fast forward to this year and we see a whole different picture. In 2010 the AKA sorority had to be proud of the three of their members who had been elected to serve on the council. Now Johnson is gone and another one, Karen Toles, is under investigation. Toles if you remember was stopped earlier this week for going over 100mph on a county highway and refusing to stop. After being stopped, police report she identified herself as councilwoman and in the end was given a warning. The traffic incident created a firestorm which led to news that this was not the first time the councilwoman had been in trouble. The difference this time is who is running the council.
Yesterday Councilwoman Toles announced she would voluntarily give up her county issued car until she completed a police course on safe driving. Today Andrea Harrison, who has since been elected chairwoman, announced the council would strip the councilwoman of her car until the investigation into the matter was resolved, not just the safety course Toles promised to take. Her quick leadership compared with Ingrid Turner who proceeded her marked a change in style. It isn’t the first act of bold resolve.
Harrison recently balked at a proposal by County Executive Rushern Baker to build a casino at National Harbor or bring gambling into the county. In November, one month before Harrison took over from Turner, the council voted 5-4 against a resolution to ban slots in the county. Harrison voted in the minority. Compare that to the recent 9-0 vote the council took in February to oppose a bill backed by Rushern Baker to build a casino at National Harbor. Harrison also led the council in amending a state bill that just passed this week by the Prince George’s County Delegation that provides tax breaks to companies who develop in the county. Harrison wanted to ensure none of the breaks went to any potential gambling companies. In the coming year her role in government will only grow. She will also play a key role in deciding if the Executive will get his choice for County Counsel, the county’s attorney, whose nomination he withdrew and resubmitted after some council members said she lacked the independence they desired. She will also wield a lot of influence in the final budget the council approves.
Harrison was elected to the Prince George’s County Council in 2008 during the special election to replace David Harrington who resigned when he was appointed to the Maryland Senate. She was reelected in 2010. Before being elected to chair the council, Harrison served as Vice-Chair and Chair of the Council of Governments (COG).
—FULL STATEMENT FROM THE COUNCIL CHAIR
The Prince George’s County Council is committed to public safety. On February 22, 2012, Council Member Toles received a citation for an unsafe lane change and a warning for speeding. Council Member Toles has stated that she will voluntarily enroll in a driver improvement class and discontinue use of her County assigned vehicle during that time. The County Council supports her decision, however, until this matter is resolved, we have agreed that Council Member Toles will have no use of or access to a County assigned vehicle for her safety and the safety of others.
Power Player- Power Player is a new feature for our blog that will highlight individuals whose influence has the potential to make changes in the operation of the Prince George’s County community.