Commotion in suburbia

March 14, 2001|By Larry Bingham | Larry Bingham,SUN STAFF

Behold Takoma Park: Nuclear-Free Zone. "Tree City." Civic champion of diversity, conscientiousness, recycling.

And home to a spy?

In the Washington suburb long considered Maryland's most liberal, news of a city councilman's undercover activity has created a ripple in an otherwise tranquil pond.

The news itself may not be rocking the foundations of all the brick cottages on Cedar, Holly and Maple avenues, but at City Hall, gadflies are buzzing.

In recent weeks the number of citizens taking the podium during the public comment period of the City Council's meetings has doubled, from three to six.

And every one of them has had something to say about Councilman Terry Seamens.

Seldom, if ever, have the words "bizarre," "FBI," "wiretap," "media event," "slander," "secret meetings," "Justice Department," "class action," "troubling questions" and "recall" been heard in this forum. Until now.

Seamens, it was revealed in a federal trial, secretly recorded a conversation with a Takoma Park police officer. The FBI used the recording in its investigation of a 1995 incident wherein two homeless Hispanic men were attacked by a police dog.

Two Prince George's County officers and a former Takoma Park detective are standing trial a few exits down the Beltway, but the courtroom revelations have surprised even Seamens' fellow council members.

"It's not often I go running for the paper to find out what happened in a trial," said Councilman Bruce Williams. "But I go running to see this one."

The trial is expected to end soon, and when it does, so will the questions haunting Takoma Park City Hall.

Seamens said he will tell all as soon as he's legally able. Mayor Kathy Porter said she'll put the item on the council agenda.

And perhaps fitting for the most liberal suburb in America, no one will pass judgment until both sides have been heard.

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