The Montgomery County inspector general soon could investigate the actions of a County Council member.
United Food and Commercial Workers/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization local 1994 has asked the IG’s office to investigate Councilwoman Valerie Ervin for allegedly pushing for a no-bid contract with a developer.
MCGEO alleges that Ervin wants Chris McGoff’s management consulting firm, The Clearing, to receive a no-bid contract to revamp the planning and zoning system. The contract would be a conflict of interest, said Gino Renne, the local’s president.
“I believe that the taxpayers and the workers of this county deserve absolute transparency by the elected officials and I do not believe that in her dealings on this particular issue that she was operating under that mandate,” Renne said. “If there is anything beyond that I don’t know, but we won’t know that until the appropriate authorities start looking at things.”
McGoff’s proposal, pitched behind closed doors to select council members, raised both eyebrows and blood pressure, in part because McGoff was party to a proposal to build townhomes near the Wheaton Westfield Mall.
Ervin called the meetings with McGoff “nothing” and “a bunch of conversations,” saying he met with council members to talk about what would happen if the council engaged in a grand plan to streamline the development process.
Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said the 12-page proposal suggests a contract and bears a “mind-boggling” $1.3 million price tag. Leventhal said he neither met with McGoff nor was privy to the proposal until council colleagues brought it to his attention.
Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park said his meeting with McGoff felt like a full-court press to get everybody to agree to fund the contract.
“I felt that the goal was to get members of the council to agree to support something before going through having public discussion,” he said.
Councilman Marc B. Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said he was told his support was needed for the proposal to advance, but he was not impressed with what McGoff was selling.
“I could not see any value in what he offered; he doesn’t know anything about planning and the problems we have,” Elrich said.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park questioned media interest in the meetings, saying that should the council actually undertake changing its development process, that would be news.
Councilman Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said his meeting with McGoff was not out of the ordinary.
“To me this was another standard meeting with a person with an idea of something to do to move the county along and at the same time [to] profit from it,” Rice said.
Montgomery has heard for years that it needs to change its development process.
“Our process stinks. I’ll be blunt,” Elrich said.
But while Riemer said everyone agrees that something needs to change, if the county seeks outside help, it must be from someone beyond reproach.
For McGoff’s proposal to become a contract, it would have to follow the county’s procurement and, likely, competitive bidding processes, Council Staff Director Stephen B. Farber said.
It also would require a vote by the council, and one hasn’t been scheduled.
“This was a proposal that, to the best of my knowledge, was in the very early stages of discussion,” Farber said.