On October 6, WJLA reported that Planning Board Vice Chair Partap Verma sent an email accusing Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson of creating a “toxic misogynistic and hostile workplace.” The Montgomery County Council appoints and oversees the Planning Board, which is part of M-NCPPC and an independent agency.
Lots of questions remain to be answered beyond the veracity of the allegations directed at Anderson. For starters, when did Verma learn about these problems. Is Verma a required reporter who must report allegations like these immediately and cannot keep them confidential? Did he report them to Human Resources or other appropriate personnel in a timely manner?
Commissioner Partap Verma sent his letter only to Carol Rubin and Marlene Michaelson, so who leaked the allegations to the press? These matters should be kept confidential to protect everyone involved, including Casey Anderson.
Planning Director Gwen Wright issued a statement defending Anderson: “There may be people who have concerns with Casey, but they are not my employees.” Except that there is no way for her to know the experience of every staff person at Planning. Wright’s definitive statement could discourage other employees who might want to come forward with similar experiences.
It’s a sign of how gone wrong matters are at the Planning Board that Wright also thinks it’s appropriate for staff to lobby the Council in support of Thrive, rather than providing information when requested. It gives credence to views that staff joined Anderson in skewing this process to a pre-determined outcome. In any case, Thrive is now supposed to be with Council staff.
In a shocker, the Planning Board voted 4-0 to dismiss Wright on October 7. Casey Anderson recused himself from the vote. Wright is an at will employee, so the Board did not have to give a reason for her dismissal. It’s also a personnel matter, so they may be constrained in discussing it. But it’s still stunning to see a longtime, highly experienced senior staff person fired just a few months before her retirement.
The commissioners voting to remove Wright included Carol Rubin, who worked 16 years at M-NCPPC as an attorney and special projects manager, prior to her appointment to the Board and thus knew Wright from both the perspective of a staff member and planning commissioner. Like Verma, Rubin was caught in the undertow of Anderson’s office bar scandal. The County Council reprimanded and docked one day’s pay from both Rubin and Verma.
On Facebook, Wright said that she suspects that she was “fired because I showed support for Casey and attempted to protect my staff from being dragged into the Board’s conflicts.” But the Planning Director should not be taking sides in Board decisions or intervening in investigation of these and other serious allegations beyond relaying what she knows to the appropriate people and ensuring that proper processes are followed.
Meanwhile, at least some defenders of Anderson are already parading “locker room talk” excuses for his alleged inappropriate statements. Here are several tweets from former Council Candidate John Zittrauer:
And now the County Council has scheduled a meeting for later today to discuss a personnel matter: