It’s been a rocky start to the new year for Prince George’s County.
Maryland state Delegate Michael A. Vaughn (D-District 24) of Mitchellville resigned about an hour before the Maryland General Assembly began this year’s 90-day session last week in Annapolis, just days after a county councilman and others were charged in a bribery scandal.
Vaughn, 59, who served as second vice chair of the county’s House Delegation, had been removed from the delegation’s website as of Sunday, Jan. 15. The county’s Democratic Central Committee has begun the process to recommended a person to fill Vaughn’s seat.
Former delegate and County Councilman William A. Campos, two liquor control board officials and two county businessmen were charged in a bribery scandal. The U.S. Attorney’s office said more arrests are forthcoming in the case.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III attended the first day’s session and assured residents “the process is working” to convict those who ruin the public’s trust.
“If we found corruption in anyway, we are going to weed it out and we were going to hold those people accountable,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we do or don’t know them. We are going to make sure if you violate the public trust, that you are going to be held accountable. That is what you see happening.”
Baker said he’s working on legislation to determine another method of appointing members to the liquor board, which administers and enforces local and state alcoholic beverage laws, rules and regulations. Under current law, the governor has the authority to make the appointments.
Baker also said he spoke to members of the county’s House Delegation and mentioned some of the main state agenda items, including school construction to renovate and rebuild some of the county’s schools. He mentioned the geographic index formula, which allows for school districts to receive higher compensation where education costs are higher.
However, Prince George’s officials have complained about Gov. Larry Hogan cutting $20 million in education funding.
“I don’t want to hear about a budget shortfall,” Baker said. “We have some of the oldest schools [in the state]. We’ve been cut $20 million a year dealing from the Hogan administration with direct impact on our classrooms. … It is more expensive to be in the Washington region than it is to be in Western Maryland, [or] the Eastern Shore. We’re doing all we can in the county. We need [state officials] to do it, too.”
Another state priority for the county before the session ends April 10 involves transportation infrastructure with a focus on the improvement of Metro.
The transit agency has proposed officials from Maryland, Virginia and the District contribute more, while Hogan has said he doesn’t support giving more money until Metro improves on safety and accountability.
State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Fort Washington said that money must be provided for Metro in order to decrease traffic on county roads.
“What I hear the governor saying is that we’re willing to sit down and here’s a starting point,” he said. “It is not uncommon for us to sit down, compromise and find a happy medium. We’ve got to come together, reach across the aisle. I’m confident we’ll make that happen.”
State legislators plan to pursue other bills during the 90-day session, including a proposal by Muse and Delegate Carolyn J. B. Howard (D-District 24) of Mitchellville to restructure a bill passed in 2013 that allows the county executive to appoint the chair, vice chair and one other school board member, as well as the school system’s chief executive officer.
Muse voted against the four-year-old law, while Howard voted in favor it.
Some residents have protested to repeal the entire bill after a former teacher’s aide and school volunteer was charged with child pornography and a federal agency stripped the school system’s Head Start program of more than $6 million in funding after allegations of child abuse by teachers and staff.
“We are going to look at this very closely and see what we can change,” Howard said.