Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Gaithersburg attorney to leave next month

Resignation won’t affect litigation, city says

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Gaithersburg City Attorney Cathy Borten announced her resignation last week, ending about three years as the city’s first in-house attorney.

Borten notified city officials on Aug. 22, and will leave Sept. 21 to become a partner in the Bethesda law offices of M.G. Diamond, she said.

‘‘I was presented with a very exciting professional opportunity,” Borten, 44, of Gaithersburg, said Monday. ‘‘I certainly will miss working for the city. It’s been a wonderful opportunity.”

Her resignation will not affect ongoing litigation, such as the city’s controversial anti-solicitation ordinance, city officials say.

The anti-solicitation ordinance amends an existing city code to make soliciting work on city streets, parking lots, sidewalks and on private property a misdemeanor for workers and employers.

Though City Council passed the measure in February with the intention of enacting it once a day-laborer center opened, they later appealed to Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler for his opinion, citing questions arising to the ordinance’s constitutionality. Gansler has not yet announced his opinion.

If needed, Gaithersburg can hire Borton on a contract basis, City Manager David B. Humpton said Monday.

Borten said Monday she is open to that option.

In addition to standard legal counsel, such as clarifying open government procedures during lengthy council and Planning Commission meetings, weighty legal issues Borten has handled for the city include the 2004 smoking ban and the proposed day-laborer center in Gaithersburg.

Those subjects did not influence her decision to leave, Borten said.

She was the first in-house attorney in 2004 after the city ended a 24-year relationship with a Bethesda firm that the city paid on an hourly, as-needed basis.

They thought an in-house attorney could better handle day-to-day issues as Gaithersburg grew, Humpton said.

‘‘It’s a loss for the city,” he said. ‘‘She’s done an excellent job, but I did not know it was coming.”

While at M.G. Diamond, she will focus on telecommunications, zoning and land use issues.

Large-scale developments she has had a hand in include the Casey East and Casey West projects and Aventiene.