Developer involved in bribery scandal sentenced Greenbelt City at

MAY 22, 2014
Developer involved in bribery scandal sentenced
By Holden Wilen
Managing Editor
GREENBELT – The real estate
developer involved in bribing former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson has been sentenced to two years in prison for his
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland, U.S.
District Judge Peter J. Messitte sen-
tenced Prince George’s developer
Daniel Ira Colton, 64, to two years
in prison followed by three years of
supervised release for conspiracy to
commit extortion and to make false
statements to the Federal Election
Commission. Colton has also been
ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.
According to court documents, Colton and other developers
had an ownership interest in
Greenbelt Metropark, which
sought to design, develop and build
a mixed-use project near the
Greenbelt Metro Station.
In his guilty plea, Colton admits to offering money, trip expenses, meals, drinks, hotel rooms, airline tickets, rounds of golf, employment, mortgage payments, and
monetary and in-kind campaign
contributions to state and local government officials from 1997
through at least September 11,
2008. In exchange the local officials agreed to provide approval letters for the Greenbelt Station detailed site plan, obtain state and local approval and permits, and vote
in favor of legislation favorable to
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a total of 17 people
have been convicted in relation to
investigations of corruption in
Prince George’s County, including
former County Executive Jack
Johnson, and his wife, former
State’s Attorney Leslie Johnson,
who was also an elected county
Jack Johnson was sentenced to
seven years in prison in 2011.
Colton could have received a
maximum sentence of five years in
prison followed by three years of
supervised release, as well as a
$250,000 fine.
Greenbelt City at odds with local nature group
By Douglas Burton
Special to the Sentinel
GREENBELT – A local nature
group continues to battle the city
over its use of a 200-acre forest preserve for classes. City councilmembers say the group, Ancestral Knowledge, is trying to make money off of
the forest while a member of the
Greenbelt Forest Preserve Advisory
Board supporting the organization
said he thinks the city is in the wrong.
“The amount of money is a pittance,” said Willis Witter. “The city
treats its trees like children and its
children like logs heading to the
Ancestral Knowledge has been
contending with city officials for two
years over the issue of whether the
group is commercializing the forest
by charging for its skill classes. Since
2010, AK has been teaching homeschooled kids meeting at the Mowatt
United Methodist Church various
skills including tracking, building debris huts, making natural cordage, nature journaling and how to make
wood-friction fires. The lessons usually include a hike in the woods.
“We are trying to get the kids
outdoors to savor nature, help them
have a relationship with nature, that
is, something they value so that when
they grow up, they will want to savor
it,” said Jonathan Murray, cofounder of the organization.
At a Greenbelt City Council
meeting earlier this month, Murray
brought up his petition for the city to
review its policy regarding access to
the woods for nature classes which
charge program fees. Mayor Emmett
Jordan told Murray the city council
tentatively plans to take up the issue
at its June 16th meeting.
In Oct. 2012, city officials told
the AK instructors its classes in the
woods would no longer be allowed
because of the fees after City Solicitor Robert Manzi ruled the forest preserve may not be used by groups
whose activities are chiefly commercial. Additionally, even though AK is
a nonprofit the city considers its
classes a business, said City Councilman Rodney Roberts.
“There is a prohibition of commercialization of the forest preserve.
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You can’t make money off the forest,” Roberts said. “I think that’s a
good idea. If you have a commercialized forest eventually you won’t have
forest. The forest preserve is for people to enjoy, not for some people to
make money off of. If you put the environment up against money, money
will usually win,” Roberts said.
AK’s fees are not cheap,
Roberts said, and he remains concerned if AK is allowed to charge for
its activities it will cause a trickledown effect.
“Someone is making money,”
Roberts said. “If you let AK in, you’ll
have to let every other [commercial]
group in.”
AK home-schoolers are taking
their classes at the Whitemarsh Park
in Bowie, where park officials allow
AK to teach its skills courses as long
as the organization does not collect
fees in the woods themselves.
Roberts, Witter and the Murray
brothers noted the contentious debate during the past two years has
been frustrating.
Murray, 38, his brother Joseph
Murray 39, and six other nature enthusiasts co-founded Ancestral
Knowledge. The orgranization conducts classes on forest ecology and
woodland survival skills at five different locations in the Metro area
every weekday, chiefly catering to
home-schoolers, Joseph said. The
students range in age from 7 to 15,
and pay fees of $240 to $270 for the
six-week sessions.