Montgomery GOP falls short in linking Del. Miller to transit center debacle

August 6, 2013

Many names figure prominently in the $120 million Silver Spring Transit Center fiasco: Parsons-Brinckerhoff, Foulger-Pratt, Robert B. Balter Co., Montgomery County’s Department of General Services, Metro. But a new and surprising name surfaced last week, uncovered by the Montgomery County Republican Party: Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery).

After all, according to party chairman Mark Uncapher’s Aug. 3 newsletter, Miller’s $110,000 a year day job is “facilities planning manager” for the county’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT).

The transit center is a facility, right? She’s a planner and an engineer. So there you go.

“Voters in District 15 can do the entire county a service by asking some pointed questions of Del. Miller about the Silver Spring Transit Center,” Uncapher wrote.

The only problem is that Miller had nothing to do with the planning and construction of the transit center. Her name does not appear in any of the reams of documents unearthed in connection to investigations of the project.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard anybody use Aruna Miller’s name,” said deputy county attorney John Markovs, the county’s lead attorney on transit center matters.

Did Uncapher come up with something that everybody else missed?

“The short answer is no,” he acknowledged in an interview Monday. He said it was not his intention to suggest that Miller was directly involved, although the headline on the piece, “Silver Spring’s Transit Center Fiasco and Delegate Aruna Miller,” carries that message pretty explicitly.

He said his point was that because of her transit expertise, she is “well situated to address questions” about the project.

“It’s appropriate for voters to ask questions about what went wrong,” Uncapher said.

Miller, 48, who takes an unpaid 90-day leave when the General Assembly is in session, said she has had no role in the project.

“I had nothing to do with the transit center, absolutely zero,” said Miller, first elected in 2010, who represents the western part of the county, including Boyds, Clarksburg, Darnestown as well as parts of Bethesda, Gaithersburg, North Potomac and Rockville.

In the 1990s, when officials in what was then the Public Works and Transportation department first discussed the idea of a bus and train hub in downtown Silver Spring, Miller was a young engineer in the traffic management section, monitoring signals. Later in the decade she was in charge of the sidewalks program. After that she worked in the Department of Permitting Services. She returned to MCDOT in 2003, and has spent her time on bikeway issues and possible road alignments.

The Department of General Services, the county’s public works agency, split off from Transportation several years ago, has been the principal county agency overseeing the transit center.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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