The embattled Prince George's County Councilwoman who pleaded guilty to evidence tampering last week has decided to resign.
News4 reporter Megan McGrath was at Prince George's County Council this morning, where Leslie Johnson appeared briefly for roll call. Immediately following the Pledge of Allegiance, Johnson got up and left the Council chambers.
Her attorney, Shawn Wright, gave the following statement to News4:
"After careful thought and consideration, I tendered my resignation this morning as a member of the Prince George's County Council for District 6, effective July 31, 2011, the last day before August recess. My resignation is important for the constituents of District 6 so that the district can be in the best possible position to continue to move forward. I again apologize for my mistake. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to serve the residents of District 6."
While Johnson wants to resign July 31, her fellow council members want her to do so immediately. The council is taking steps to cut off funding for her county-issued vehicle, cell phone and any other government-related spending, NBC Washington's Chris Gordon reported.
“We believe the public interest of the citizens and residents of Prince George's County is best served by your immediate resignation,” Council Chair Ingrid Turner wrote in a letter to Johnson that was approved by the entire Council.
Johnson pleaded guilty on June 30 to tampering with evidence. Her charges were in connection to a criminal corruption probe of her husband, former county executive Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson pled guilty to corruption charges and awaits sentencing in September.
With her June 30 plea, Leslie Johson would have had to resign her seat upon sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 13. The maximum sentence she could receive is 20 years in prison.
However, following her plea hearing, Johnson was resolute in saying that she would not step down from her post before October.
Prosecutors said Johnson hid nearly $80,000 in her underwear and flushed a check for $100,000 down the toilet. As part of the 16-page plea agreement, she has already forfeited the nearly $80,000.
Johnson was not legally obligated to resign. She would have been forced to give up her seat, which carries a $96,000 annual salary, only after her sentencing, and Wright said Thursday that Johnson had planned to remain in office until that date. Wright declined to comment on what led Johnson to change her mind, and she did not respond to a request for comment about the Council's actions later Tuesday.
A special election will be held to fill Johnson's seat. Under county law, a primary election must be held between 45 and 60 days from the date the seat becomes vacant, with a special election to follow between 60 and 90 days after that.
“By waiting to the end of the month, she has effectively delayed the residents of District 6 valuable time needed to fill the vacancy,” County Executive Rushern Baker said in a statement. “No delay is necessary; furthermore, it is crucial that a new council member be smoothly transitioned into the office as soon as possible.”
Among those rumored to run are Derrick Leon Davis and Arthur Turner, candidates Johnson defeated in November, and former Councilman Samuel Dean, who lost a bid for county executive to Baker last fall.
Johnson was elected just days before her arrest last November and took the oath of office in December despite calls from some Council members that she step aside. She was barred from serving on any committees, although she was allowed to attend committee meetings and vote on bills.