The Washington Post

Leggett vetoes economic development bill

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that would increase legislative oversight over his economic development decisions.

In a 6-3 vote earlier this month, the Montgomery County Council approved the bill, which generally would allow legislators to prevent county officials from selling lucrative county properties. The legislation was part of a slew of bills the body considered to boost local economic development.

Leggett’s veto on Monday was the first during his tenure as county executive, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said.

Lacefield said Leggett struck down the bill — at least for now — because it would add another layer of oversight to economic development, make business transactions more difficult and affect future county executives. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said.

In a memo Monday to the County Council, Leggett said he “reluctantly” decided to veto the bill. He added that it was sometimes confusing and could “undermine the long-term credibility” of the county.

Six votes are required to overrule vetoes, so council member George Leventhal and other supporters say the veto may be moot. Lacefield said Leggett administration officials recently have had conversations with council officials who supported the bill. But “primarily we’re looking for council members to read this and then decide what they want to do,” Lacefield said.

Leventhal said he is pushing for a vote on Tuesday to override the veto. Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), who supported the bill, said his colleagues “continue to believe this is an appropriate and balanced measure.”

But not all of his colleagues agree. In a biting statement, the three council opponents — Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County), Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) and Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) — said the bill “insults the integrity” of the executive branch. “It is a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Leventhal introduced the legislation after a controversial closed-door deal between county officials and a Gaithersburg tech company. County officials sold a property in Rockville to the company for $3 million -- a fraction of what the county had estimated the parcel was worth in fiscal 2009.



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