Moments before the Prince George’s council was to vote in 2007 on a site plan for a project that property owner Joe Lasick had a little piece of, former council member Dernoga pulled him and three others involved into a hallway.
Lasick said Dernoga told them that the measure wouldn’t pass that day unless the group gave $200,000 for county schools.
Mr. Lasick is a property owner in North College Park, just north of MD 193. The property was burned down in an arson fire in late 2004.
“I became unglued and said, ‘You can’t do this to me.” Lasick said. “I was shocked. I never thought he would say this to my face.”
According to an explosive Washington Post report , Mr. Dernoga asked county developers to pay up to $1 million for community projects in exchange of favor in their developments.
In defending his action, Mr. Dernoga said,
“You have these people making millions, and all this density and all the traffic [we’d] absorb on Route 1. You mean to tell me you have nothing to help out our schools? I found it greedy on the part of the property owners.”
Dernoga said that project would have cost the main developers $120 million and that $100,000 would have been a “drop in the bucket”.
Lasick’s deal to sell his College Park property for $4 million fell apart, he said. By the time the project got all of its approvals, the economy crashed.
“Everything was taking so long to do, I couldn’t figure it out,” Lasick said.
The Post also says Dernoga had asked for the donation from other developers in the county before the plans were even filed. Mr. Dernoga’s behavior has been criticized and prompted Maryland legislators to pass an ethics bill that would ban Prince George’s council members from asking anyone who is seeking legislation or approvals to provide anything of monetary value.
The ethics legislation, was signed into law on April 12.
Joe Lasick (The Gazette)
College Park’s smart development blog ReThinkCollegePark says College Park residents are paying the price for Dernoga’s actions.
“The delays he introduced for developers, including for those who didn’t make donations, meant that many parcels of land on Route 1 never got developed during the real estate boom, and we’re stuck with strip malls, parking lots or vacant land instead of useful properties that house residents or shops and contribute to the city’s tax base.” – charged blog editor David Daddio in an opinion piece.
Speaking of north College Park community, Mr. Dernoga thinks he always supported residents’ interests first.
“Generally, I supported the wishes of the NCPCA (North College Park Civic Association) and I’m unaware of any significant matter in which I deviated. In fact, a couple of times when I disagreed with the citizens in principle, I tried to find a compromise and mostly came to their side.” – Dernoga said in an interview to me yesterday.
When asked about Mr. Lasick’s allegation that his development was stalled by the insistence of donation money, Dernoga said: “I have offered to speak to him about his claims for two year and he will not speak to me. So, I have no reason to speak to him [through you]”
I the mean time, Mr. Dernoga remains defiant on his stance against Washington Post’s alleged “Dernoga Money” affairs.
“Please don’t expect me to apologize… Sorry, no apologies for fighting for my communities.” – a defiant Dernoga comments.