Lynh Bui Reporter with focus on public safety and criminal justice November 5 at 3:53 PM Haitham A. Hijazi, head of the licensing department of Prince George, who is being investigated as part of a widening problem of construction failure at MGM National Harbor, served his retirement Monday. Hijazi leaves the Department of Permits, Inspections and Enforcement that he led since 2013. Scott Peterson, a spokesperson for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), confirmed that Hijazi had sent a pension report to the Baker office. Hijazi's department issued permits and approvals for the MGM facilities, where a child was seriously shocked in June when she was swinging on an illuminated railing. Two provincial officials who were familiar with the case said that Hijazi retired to prevent him from resigning. His job was a $ 210,000 post a year. The FBI assists Prince George's police in investigating the location of the resort, looking at the possibility of corruption among the public, and whether corners were cut to speed up the opening of the $ 1.4 billion project . An independent engineer hired by the province issued a report describing the wiring that feeds the handrail as "awful" and part of the "sloppiest work" he has ever seen.
Haitham Hijazi at press conference after announcement of findings by an independent engineer. (Rachel Chason / TWP) Hijazi said he felt "betrayed" by the electrician and a third-party inspector, but described the MGM problems at the site as limited and said there was no "imminent danger" in the premises. Hijazi could not be reached immediately for comment on his pension. Hijazi spent more than two decades in the provincial government and was one of only two department heads to keep Baker from the management of his predecessor Jack Johnson, who served more than five servants. ars after pleading guilty of evidence tampering and destruction of evidence in a broad corruption scheme. When Baker decided to keep himself from Johnson's administration, he repeatedly heard: "Keep Haitham." In 2013 he tapped Hijazi, a Syrian-born civil engineer who spent a decade as head of the $ 22 million public works and transport department of the province, to take charge of the new Department of Permits and Inspections, which Baker said he hoped it would "disappear as a signature initiative."
The MGM Casino at National Harbor at Oxon Hill, Maryland (Evelyn Hockstein / For The Washington Post) Hijazi oversaw the review of the licensing and inspection process, after years of complaints that it was too bureaucratic and not business-friendly for a province that wanted to grow economically. M.H. Jim Estepp, president and CEO of the Greater Prince George corporate table, said the business was "satisfied" with the changes that Hijazi had made and that he described as "one of the most professional and competent people I have in the government. have known. " Councilor David C. Harrington, president and CEO of Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, said that hijazi had always been accessible and personally called him back when he voiced concerns from entrepreneurs or voters. "There are still obstacles … but there is now a perception that the province is open to companies," Harrington said.
Hijazi's retirement comes less than two weeks after the provincial officials announced that they would work with the FBI to extend their investigation into how the 6-year-old had been seriously injured. The girl swung on a lighted handrail near the fountain of the resort along the banks of the Potomac River on June 26th. The handrail and wiring to the handrail were not installed correctly, along with a device that controls the voltage to the lights, according to findings from an independent engineer who hired the county to assess the incident. The defective installation in combination with other problems shocked 120 volts by the girl, 10 times the current that should flow to the lights. The engineer's findings confirmed a preliminary assessment obtained by The Washington Post stating that the faulty electrical work represented "major" code violations that should not have passed the licensing and inspection process. The preliminary assessment and the engineer said that the wrong type of wiring was used to light the lights on the handrail and that the handrail was installed at a shallow depth and became shaky. The loose handrail then frayed protective coatings on the wiring and the exposed bare wiring made contact with the metal railing, according to the technical assessment. The child was severely startled after he grabbed the handrail to swing over it and then swing her legs on another nearby metal rail. completing the electrical circuit. Hijazi said last month that he had ordered all electrical systems at MGM National Harbor to be monitored in the coming year. He also took the district "disciplinary measures" against the electrician and the third-inspector who approved the work, but would not give details about what the discipline meant. Hijazi said that he welcomed every inquiry and had confidence in how his office dealt with the process. "This is my home", Hijazi said in an interview last month. "You never destroy your house." A third-party inspector has told officials that he reluctantly accepts work that does not comply with the code because he feels the pressure to do so from other construction companies, according to a judicial document reviewed by the Post. A lawyer from the inspector said that his client was "through the book" and "safety conscious" and did not inspect the specific railing on which the child was injured. The entities are not mentioned in the document. No charges or violations have been filed against someone or a company in the ongoing investigation.