** This story has been updated as new information becomes available. See the updates below.**
The details have been trickling in all afternoon. Pg County District 9 Councilman Mel Franklin, the man who wants to be our next County Executive, was arrested for DUI today. Patch.com has the most information on this story thus far, but curating the story through multiple sources has added a few other details. The TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version:
Prince George’s County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) crashed a county-owned 2008 Ford Explorer into a Mercedes, which was stopped at a red light on Rt 4 and Dowerhouse Rd. Medics saw him flee the scene. The force of the impact was enough to activate the airbags in the Explorer and total the Mercedes. According to various journalists on Twitter, Councilman Franklin may have fled into the woods and hid for over 8 minutes. Regardless, he was later found, some 70 yards away, walking along the median of the road. According to WaPo, his blood-alcohol level was .10, well above Maryland’s legal limit. The two occupants of the Mercedes were taken by ambulance to PG Hospital and treated for minor injuries, including a concussion. Current charges for the Councilman are:
driving while impaired by alcohol;
driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol;
negligent driving of a vehicle in a careless and a imprudent manner endangering property, life and person; and
failure to control vehicle speed on a highway to avoid collision
Maryland State Police are looking into pressing more charges, and have been in talks with the PG County State Attorney. This author would like to recommend they add charges for fleeing the scene and abandoning the vehicle.
Councilman Franklin has engaged the services of Ms. Theresa Moore, a lawyer with an office on Water St. My attempts to reach out have so far gone unanswered. There are a few questions that many PG County citizens are asking that need to be answered:
What was the Councilman doing driving a county vehicle at 11:30 pm on a Monday night?
What county business was he engaged in that night, that involved drinking?
Who will be paying to replace the Mercedes, which has been reported totaled? The county’s insurance, or the councilman’s private auto insurance?
Who will be paying for the repairs or replacement of the county SUV?
Who will be paying for the associated medical bills?
The answers to those questions and this entire situation may raise other questions, like why does the county own SUVs for the council members to use? That seems like maybe not the wisest use of taxpayer money. Keep in mind, this man wants to be the next County Executive for PG County, when current CE Rushern Baker makes his move on the Governorship in 2018. If he doesn’t think he can win the CE race, Mr. Franklin may opt to try for one of the new At- Large seats. Either way, he plans to remain a fixture in county government for a long time. Given this state’s track record, with the likes of Del Kumar Barve still in office despite his DUI, it is entirely possible that Councilman Franklin will continue to be elected to office in PG county.
UPDATE: From Brad Bell (ABC7) on Twitter:
— Brad Bell (@ABC7Brad) November 30, 2016
UPDATE #2 – According to County Council Chair Davis’s press release, Councilman Franklin has relinquished his county vehicle, and will no longer have access to any county vehicles.
UPDATE #3 – Tracee Wilkins of NBC4 has uncovered other instances of Councilman Franklin crashing county-owned vehicles, including one in December of 2012 that was also totaled. She also found up to 10 speeding tickets in the years 2011-2012. The PG Sentinel story also mentioned two speeding violations in early 2014.
(Left) Councilman Mel Franklin’s county issued car after 11/21/16 DUI. (Right) Franklin’s county issued car in December 2012. My story at 6. pic.twitter.com/YzHIxroXYH
— Tracee Wilkins (@TraceeWilkins) November 30, 2016