Oct 12, 2022 - News

Scandal leads entire Montgomery County planning board to resign

Aerial view of Downtown Bethesda, Montgomery county, Maryland

An aerial photo of downtown Bethesda in Montgomery County. Photo: Daniel SLIM/AFP

The planning board in charge of Montgomery County’s development future is in chaos.

A workplace misconduct scandal has led all five of its members to resign, the Montgomery County Council announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The turmoil couldn’t come at a worse time, as the Washington suburb of over 1 million residents faces growing pains.

Since 2019, planners have been working on a document known as Thrive 2050, which aims to boost development, riling up a debate over how much the county should grow and whether it would spur enough affordable housing.

  • The planning board is seen as a low-key but powerful group that can influence Montgomery County's future through zoning and development. The county council appoints its members.

Driving the news: The resignations come amid an ongoing investigation into workplace accusations against planning board chair Casey Anderson.

  • Anderson first caught flack in August after an investigation found he kept and shared alcohol with Planning Department employees.
  • Then, in late September, board vice chair Partap Verma accused Anderson of creating a toxic workplace and using misogynistic comments, per the Washington Post.
  • Anderson told Axios in a statement that "the allegations against me are false."

The scandal has since grown to derail the whole board. Last Friday, the planning board abruptly voted to fire the director of the Planning Department, Gwen Wright, who showed support for Anderson in a letter.

  • And now Verma faces allegations that he acted unethically during the investigation into Anderson in part by not recusing himself and sharing information about the ongoing probe, the Post reported.
  • “I followed all protocols as advised by the county council and ensured that everything that was done was properly documented,” Verma told Axios.

What they’re saying: “The Council has lost confidence in the Montgomery County Planning Board and accepted these resignations to reset operations,” council president Gabe Albornoz said in a statement.

  • In an interview, Albornoz said the controversies would not affect the council's expected vote later this month to approve Thrive 2050.

In addition to Anderson and Verma, the other board members to resign are Gerald Cichy, Tina Patterson, and Carol Rubin.

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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