PGCo News Bite (Demo)

Some interesting PGCO news was posted while I was away from the keyboard.  County Executive Baker is coming closer and closer to fulfilling a version of his campaign promise by appointing a acting head for the new Prince George’s County Office of Ethics and Accountability.  Some will say hooray, others will say boo!  Boo! because the new Ethics and Accountability office will not, as I understand it, be independent of the County Executive’s office.  I think that’s the real factor that sets it apart.  Even I let out a quiet boo! at the Prince George’s County Council voting to pay off the bond debt of Dimensions Healthcare System.  Where the devil are we going to get this extra $46 million dollars?  But as I was pondering, booing, and shaking my head, I came across this story below of an “unnamed” Temple Hills woman driving her car into a lake and I chuckled a little bit.  This story reminded me a little bit of The Office episode when Michael drove into the lake because he refused to disobey the GPS directions.  Ha!
Temple Hills woman texts while driving and drives right into a lake.  Since there are no “visible” injuries, are we allowed to laugh or say “I BET NOW YOU’LL STOP TEXTING AND DRIVING!”

*BLANK STARE at Diane*
*BLANK STARE at Diane*

Car in LakeThe Charles County Sheriff’s Office says the 25-year-old Temple Hills, Md., woman was driving north on St. Charles Parkway near St. Thomas Drive in Waldorf when her Hyundai left the road and hit a tree. The impact sent her car careening 60 feet into Wakefield Lake at about 12:30 p.m.  Her car quickly became submerged in about 5 feet of water but she was able to climb out through the driver’s side window, according to the Charles County Sheriff’s office.  Officers reported that the woman she was texting when she lost control of her car.  She was taken to the hospital but had no visible injuries.  Diane Richardson of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, when asked by PGC Blog if the Temple Hills woman has been identified, responded with a “no.”  Thanks Diane.  
Dimensions HealthcarePrince George’s County votes to pay off Dimensions Healthcare System‘s $46 million dollars in bond debt.  The Council will hold a public hearing on this debt deal on October 1st.  PGC Blog considers itself a good investment and would like some time with the Council.  We have some debts we need paid off too.  Shoot.  From NBC Washington:
Council members voted to approve an additional $46 million to secure the region’s new hospital center by covering Dimensions’ bond debts. The debt was not originally mentioned in the $200 million the county was expected to contribute to the new hospital. The county’s health system acquired the bonds in 1994 and Dimensions still has a large balance — one officials think could negatively impact the state’s approval of the new hospital center.
“We think it’s a good investment on our part and a good way to protect our investment,” Tom Himler with Prince George’s County told News4. “We’re going to refinance their debt for them so when they submit their [Certificate of Need] application, they will be able to disclose that they have no bonds outstanding.”  The University of Maryland Medical System is predicting the $645 million regional health care center will turn a profit within two years of opening its doors, but the additional $46 million could delay the profit.  The county has been supplementing Dimensions Healthcare since 2011 with $15 million payments each year — $10 million for operations and $5 million to pay off debt — scheduled through 2015.
Robin Barnes-Shell
Robin Barnes-Shell

County Executive Baker has nominated Robin Barnes-Shell to be Acting Executive Director of the new Prince George’s County Office of Ethics and Accountability.  A move some see as still not making good on his campaign promise and the recommendations of the ethics task force to create of an inspector general’s office.   Robin Barnes-Shell is a graduate of Howard University and Georgetown University Law Center and has been a resident of Prince George’s County for 23 years.  Her background and experience include recent positions within the School System as Coordinator for the Office of Constituent Services and in the Office of Appeals.  She established the Office of the Ombudsman in the Howard County Public School System and served as Deputy General Counsel for NeighborWorks America.   
In Mrs. Barnes-Shell’s role as Acting Executive Director, she will be tasked with building a staff to include investigators, ethics trainers/educators, and other lawyers. who would compile and review information regarding any possible acts of unethical conduct or illegal acts. This information would be reviewed by Ms. Barnes-Shell to determine if such acts represent criminal conduct, are covered by existing personnel law, are instances where policies and procedures should be changed, or if no violation of law or policy occurred.  Furthermore, the Office of Ethics and Accountability will be responsible for educating and training Prince George?s County employees about the rules, policies, and processes around ethics and accountability. The Office of Ethics and Accountability will eventually administer a tip line that will enable callers to discreetly register any information regarding possible unethical acts committed by employees of the County government.

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