Thursday, September 22, 2016

MoCo Council embroiled in new scandal 46 days before voters decide on term limits

The Montgomery County Council's vote Tuesday to approve the hiring of attorneys Francoise Carrier and Douglas Bregman - to represent taxpayer interests in negotiations over a White Oak development - was an unforced political error. An astonishing breach of ethics, the 8-1 Council vote plunges the body into yet another scandal, even as a November 8 ballot question will ask voters if councilmembers should be limited to 3 terms.

Carrier and Bregman would represent the County in negotiations with developer Percontee, which is purchasing 115 acres of land from the County at White Oak, a deal already steeped in conflicts of interest for County Executive Ike Leggett.

Why is this a problem?

Herman, set the Wayback Machine for the late 1980s.

Leggett at that time began a close relationship with the developer that Carrier and Bregman will be negotiating with at White Oak. Contributors affiliated with the developer have donated thousands of dollars to Leggett's campaign accounts since that time. Negotiations between the developer and County Attorney Marc Hansen have been contentious and lengthy - in other words, Hansen appeared to actually be doing his job.

Now, mysteriously, Hansen is calling for outside legal counsel to take over the negotiations, citing a lack of resources in his office.

Hansen has 26 years of professional experience in the County Attorney's office. He serves at the pleasure of Leggett, who appointed him County Attorney in 2011, and of the Council, who unanimously approved his appointment. The sudden move to hire Carrier and Bregman creates - true or not - the public perception that Hansen is obeying a directive from Leggett and the Council to do so, or it might no longer be "their pleasure" for Hansen to continue in the position. That's just a fact.

Why is the selection of Carrier and Bregman a problem?

"I'm now on the
developers' side"

That Carrier was Chair of the Planning Board when the White Oak sector plan was passed is just the beginning of the conflicts of interest in this case. After leaving the Board in 2014, Carrier was appointed to the board of directors of a developer-backed non-profit, Communities for Transit. An instrumental figure on that board of directors? Jonathan Genn, Executive Vice-President at...Percontee. Yes, the White Oak developer Carrier will now "negotiate" with.
Look who teamed up
to deliver a presentation
at a development conference
this year
Earlier this year, Carrier and Genn teamed up at a Montgomery County conference to present a developer-friendly PowerPoint presentation on the so-unfair costs to developers (and the uninformed NIMBYs) that make "smart growth" urban development difficult in MoCo. "I'm now on the developers' side of the table," Carrier declared late in the presentation.

Carrier is also close to her now-partner in the Percontee negotiations, Douglas Bregman. Together, they helped stifle an objective, truly-independent investigation into the Farm Road scandal in 2013. As Chair of the Planning Board at that time, Carrier appointed Bregman to "investigate" Farm Road.

The Farm Road debacle began when African-American landowners were cheated out of their property rights in Sandy Spring. A road that served their properties mysteriously disappeared from documents and records, a move that benefited a developer building homes there, but preventing the black landowners from developing their properties.

How did this happen? There was enough evidence of foul play to spur the County Inspector General to call for an investigation of the Planning Department. Activists and Councilmember Marc Elrich were among those who called on Attorney General Doug Gansler to launch a state investigation (Elrich was the only councilmember to vote against hiring Carrier and Bregman Tuesday).

What could possibly go wrong?

It turned out that Gansler would decide whether an investigation was warranted based on the conclusions of Bregman's "investigation." Problem: Bregman had donated $4,000 to Gansler's campaign account. Bregman also contributed to current Attorney General Brian Frosh, and wrote a $1250 check to Leggett's campaign.

When Bregman's report - shocker! - cleared the Planning Department of wrongdoing, Gansler declined to investigate. The local press ceased covering Farm Road, and no true, independent investigation of the Planning Department ever took place.

When Carrier left the Planning Board, she joined the law firm of...Douglas Bregman. I am shocked. Shocked. You can't make this stuff up, folks. This is the proverbial revolving door, now coming around yet again.

Keep all of this in mind when you consider Carrier and Bregman will now represent your interests in this sweetheart deal to sell County land (a.k.a. taxpayer-owned land) to Percontee, "at below market value." God help us. This is happening at a time when developer-beholden County elected officials are telling us there is no money, and no land for new schools or bus depots.

According to a report by Bill Turque of the Washington Post, Carrier and Bregman will be paid $425-$525 per hour, to do the work we are already paying $190,000 a year for Mr. Hansen to do.

How, knowing all of this full well, could eight councilmembers have voted to hire Carrier and Bregman? Couldn't they have simply declined the nominations, and held out for truly-independent outside counsel? And why wouldn't they? Well, for starters, it suggests that they are, along with Leggett, behind the move to hire the pair.

And, let's be honest, this is the same "progressive" County Council that created a federal tax shelter worth $360,000,000 for one of their biggest campaign contributors. The same County Council that - minus Elrich - receives 82% of its campaign funds from developers. And the same Council that, after defeating the once-powerful Columbia Country Club and Town of Chevy Chase in the Purple Line battle, believes they are now invincible and entitled to do anything. In other words, they will intentionally engage in a massive breach of ethics simply because they can. It's just that attitude and chutzpah which have created the wide support among tax-stomped voters for term limits this year.

#MoCoTermLimits
#ThrowTheBumsOut

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

When you say throw the bums out, you are including yourself right?

#PriceDyerOuttaBethesda #MakeBethesdaSafeAgain

Anonymous said...

Is Dyer "tax-stomped"?

Anonymous said...

"...the once-powerful Columbia Country Club..."

Wut??!

Anonymous said...

The Farm Road thing is unbelievable. If you don't know, read up on it.
Imagine your govt literally wiping your street off the map and insisting you don''t exist. Suddenly your mail not only isn't delivered, but is returned to sender for not being a valid address.
All because your street is in the way for a developer's project.
Bad government at its best.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. 8 in 10 of councilmembers campaign funds are from developers. That explains alot of their bizarre votes like approving the Westbard plan.

Anonymous said...

Ah the good old days when rich white guys in country clubs decided what was best. MAGA.

Anonymous said...

"alot"

LOL

Anonymous said...

8:08am Let's get a few of the old rich white guys off the Council with term limits. They are deadwood and don't represent the current county well.

Anonymous said...

@831 neither does a pony tailed pipsqueak or wanders around town taking dumb pictures while wearing a trenchcoat

Anonymous said...

8:52am get the deadwood off the Council. Leventhal was a young man when first elected and now he wants to serve until retirement. Term limit him and the other folks who lost touch.

Anonymous said...

What was the outcome of the inspector general investigation? That seems like a really crappy move by the developers and I hope they had to answer for it.

Anyone know if there are "Yes on B" (in favor of term limits) lawn signs available? I'll put on one my yard, and I live on a highly-traveled state road.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Dyer can't win any elections strongly suggests that he is the one who is "out of touch".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for fully presenting the issues with this flawed approval of Ms. Carrier to represent the County in dealings with Percontee and the Planning Commission/Staff.

I was entertained by Tuesday's discussion. Now to show their oversight, Council will have a FUTURE meeting to discuss and amend the new, more permissive GDA that Leggett signed back in June.

Furthermore, again at some later date, Council has asked to be given an update on the unknown/unspecified/over-hyped/highly-secretive development potential of Viva White Oak from the Executive Branch. This will most probably happen when they approve the ~$50M Supplemental CIP item to do the first round of road improvements ON the Viva White Oak site! How many more CIP supplementals will be funded over the life time of the GDA?

Oversight? What oversight?

AND what a difference between the two sides of MoCo. This would not fly in the west! No wonder the aim of those in East County is to go West, better schools, better government.

Anonymous said...

East Montgomery County!
Give me your tired.
Your poor.
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
I am the Westwood Development!

Anonymous said...

@ 12:09 - Oh, that is awesome.

Hopefully Momma Dyer will realize that a hard-working Guatemalan family will make much better tenants than her current one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making us aware of this Robert. This is the quote of all quotes:
"I'm with the developers now."
This is the person chiefly responsible for rewriting zoning over the entire County and set in motion tremendous sprawl densities in outlying areas like White Oak and others. Then she quit after one term to go cash in by representing the developers that she just awarded. And now the County is hiring her to carry it out? So the residents will be paying her to screw us over even more? This is disgusting and the Council turns away from the people they are supposed to represent.

Anonymous said...

"Sprawl densities"

LOL. Birdbrain.

Anonymous said...

Sprawl = uncoordinated expansion without concern for the consequences and impact, resulting in unsustainable development.
Now that she is "on the developer's side" as she puts it, after setting up this scheme, obviously never concerned about the sustainability.

Anonymous said...

Good scoop. Thanks for the info. #TermLimits

Anonymous said...

Are any other of the legitimate news outlets calling this a "scandal" or is this more of your lunatic conspiracy theories?

Anonymous said...

Another example of the moco corruption for cronies machine.

I remember Giffords said...

2:40pm is desperately trying to change the discussion back to his own blog. Let's put the "who has the better blog" debate aside.

You know full well there's no "outlet" that would dare criticize this Council and risk their personal friendships and access.

This Council is finally starting to be held to account for acting illegally (on Westbard). Further scrutiny on this lawless Council is needed.

Anonymous said...

"On the developer's side"

Versus being on the side of people who don't actually own the land in question?

Anonymous said...

@4:20 The neighborhood's side. I can't tear down my single family home and erect a 10-story apartment building in its place, because zoning. It exists for a reason.

Anonymous said...

What's the source for the statement that 82% of campaign contributions for the dirty 8 are from developers? And what is the basis? Is it all donations or just businesses?

Anonymous said...

Great summary. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

4:20 PM
If landowners could do whatever the hell they want with their property, why have a Planning Board? lol.
We know this Planning Board is an ineffective joke, but the idea is that they strike a balance with what the developer wants and the community.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of the County own 115 acres destined to be sold at less than market rate by Leggett and this Council to Gudelsky's Percontee/Global Life Sci Development for $42M---with many, many credits to be applied to the purchase price.

Some of the credits include Building Lot Termination Fees for the Ag Reserve, a school site, transportation costs, marketing and setting up the IV2 Alliance. The County will be lucky not to pay Percontee to take the 115 acres!!

And then there are going to be MILLIONS of CIP funds expended too. What a deal.

Anonymous said...

@7:48 astonishing mocorruption. Thanks for sharing this information.

Anonymous said...

@7:48pm Sounds like the Shady Grove bus depot debacle, but worse!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Who is this weird guy running around smelling everyone?

Anonymous said...

It's about time we got term limits in Montgomery County!
www.mocotermlimits.org
facebook.com/mocotermlimits

Anonymous said...

#Termlimits! www.mocotermlimits.org Join this grassroots movement to take back our county from professional politicians.

Anonymous said...

Is this a news site or a campaign organ?