After scandals, Montgomery Co.’s entire Planning Board resigns

Montgomery County, Maryland, needs a new Planning Board.

The County Council on Wednesday announced that it had accepted the resignations of the entire board: Chair Casey Anderson; Vice Chair Partap Verma, and commissioners Gerald Cichy, Tina Patterson and Carol Rubin.

“The council has lost confidence in the Montgomery County Planning Board and accepted these resignations to reset operations,” County Council President Gabe Albornoz said in Wednesday’s statement.

Albornoz told WTOP the council accepted the board’s resignations because of what he called a “sheer volume of controversies,” and because of concerns about how it was all affecting staff morale.

“We’re disappointed that it’s come to this, but given the totality of the controversies that were mounting around the Planning Department, we accepted these resignations, because we think it’s important to have … an entire transition among the board to be able to move forward,” Albornoz said.

It’s the latest chapter in a turbulent few weeks for county planning officials.

Less than a month ago, Anderson apologized after an inspector general report found that he had been keeping liquor in his office, and that he had shared drinks with employees at the board offices in Wheaton.

Those findings led to a wider investigation that revealed allegations of a toxic work environment. Last week, WJLA-TV reported on a confidential email it obtained alleging a “toxic, misogynistic and hostile workplace,” allegedly cultivated in part by Anderson.

Then, the board fired Planning Director Gwen Wright without cause, just months before she was set to retire.

And on Tuesday, Albornoz told The Washington Post that an investigation into Anderson’s conduct was also scrutinizing Verma and the firing of Wright.

The County Council is now set to pick acting board commissioners on Oct. 25. County residents with “expertise in land use, planning, economic development, transportation, and environmental and park issues” have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to apply for a temporary seat. More information can be found on the county’s website.

In addition, the council will separately conduct a formal application process for people who want to be appointed to serve out the terms of the board’s officially vacant seats.

Planning Board commissioners are appointed by the council and generally serve four-year terms.

In addition to serving as the council’s principal advisers on land-use planning and community planning, board members also serve as commissioners of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The resignations will not affect a council vote on the Thrive 2050 long-range planning document, Albornoz said.

“I’ve been in county government for 16 years — 12 as an appointed official, and now four as an elected official — and I have never seen anything like this,” he said.

“And it’s deeply disappointing. It’s deeply troubling. And this is a dark moment in our history as a county, but we will learn from this. We will move forward.”

In a statement, County Executive Marc Elrich said the Planning Board has also been cited with multiple violations of the Open Meetings Act.

“It is clear that new people and new voices are needed on the Planning Board. Park and Planning has been run by a group of insiders for far too long,” Elrich said.

“There needs to be a respectful balance of the views of developers and those of the community. I hope that the new Planning Board appointees reflect the demographics of this community and are committed to our residents, community input, and an efficient and transparent process.”

WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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