Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jack Johnson's arrest shows development as a blessing and a curse

Jack Johnson's arrest shows development as a blessing and a curse
Jack B. Johnson, Prince George's County's executive, was arrested on Nov. 12 as federal investigators served search warrants at the County Administration Building. His wife, Leslie Johnson, was also arrested. Each was charged with evidence tempering and destroying evidence.
By Miranda S. Spivack, Ovetta Wiggins and Carol Morello
Washington Post
November 14, 2010

Development deals have been at the center of Prince George's County's most contentious political fights for decades, the source of its highest hopes and deepest embarrassments.

The wins have included luring the Redskins from the District, creating a tourist and shopping destination at National Harbor and, most recently, persuading Wegmans, the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocer with a cultlike following, to open a mega-store in a county that has long been shunned by upscale retailers.

But the arrests of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife, Leslie Johnson, on Friday as part of a federal probe of political corruption in Prince George's are a reminder that the money swirling around big development deals can be both a blessing and a curse.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post outlining his achievements during his eight years as executive, Jack Johnson said he was "very, very proud" of his development record.

Two weeks later, according to an FBI affidavit, the Johnsons were overheard on a wiretap plotting how to rid themselves of a potentially incriminating $100,000 check from a developer and hide wads of cash totalling $79,600. They could each face 20 years in prison if convicted.

"Upper Marlboro has developed a reputation for having a pay-to-play atmosphere, and you certainly don't hear that about other jurisdictions" in the area, said Joel D. Rozner, a lobbyist and former county zoning counsel, referring to the county seat.

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