Police chief charged criminally after WTOP investigation

WASHINGTON — A small town police chief is facing criminal charges after a WTOP investigation uncovered a parking ticket to the mayor went unpaid for more than a year.

Edmonston Police Chief Stephen E. Walker has been charged with two counts of malfeasance in office, according to a summons issued on Monday.

Edmonston is a small town near Hyattsville with about 1,400 residents.

WTOP reported in April that current Mayor Tracy Farrish Gant received a parking ticket in early 2014, but the ticket went unpaid until March 2015.  The ticket was paid the same day that WTOP began asking questions, although town officials wrote that the payment came hours before our initial contact.  The town did not explain why the ticket went unpaid for 410 days, or why it was paid on that day, of all dates.

But multiple sources tell WTOP that Walker voided the ticket illegally, then reinstated the ticket when Ticketbuster and prosecutors began asking questions.  Gant told residents at a town council meeting that she would be transparent, as would Walker, and that they would consider bringing in an outside party to adjudicate parking tickets.

“As it is not a moving violation, the chief has the discretion to cancel a ticket, though of course will no longer, after this was brought to light. I do not think it is an abuse of power, not on the mayor’s point.  Had she known about the ticket, I believe she would have paid it,” writes Councilmember Margaret Pooley in an e-mail to WTOP.

Walker kept his job earlier this month, despite a push from Facebook group called “Edmonston Residents for Change.”  An anonymous member of the group sent fliers around the town calling for Walker’s termination, alleging that he covered up a staff member caught committing sexual acts inside town hall while on-duty and in uniform.

“I support the Chief and find it confusing that his integrity has been challenged with no evidence and allegations made by an anonymous individual. Were the allegations not baseless, i would take them seriously, but i have listened to the Chief address each and find them specious,” writes Pooley.

Walker has kept his job on a narrow 3-2 vote in the council.  Councilmembers Sophia E. Layne-Bee and Selita J. Bennett-White have asked some critical questions and believe Walker needs to resign, but were unable to get answers or get the votes to oust him.  The key tiebreaker vote is Gant, who supports the chief fully.

It’s unclear whether the malfeasance in office charges are exclusively related to the unpaid parking ticket and an alleged cover-up, or whether it includes the allegations in the anonymous flier.

It is also unclear whether authorities will investigate allegations that Walker is misusing untraceable, confidential license plates to evade speed and red light cameras in Prince George’s County.

Town Attorney Suellen Fergueson and other town officials did not respond to a request for comment late Monday evening, but they have previously denied all allegations against them.

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