By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Former Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan resigned yesterday from the University of Maryland at College Park, less than five weeks after he apologized for telling reporters he was forced to drop out of a political forum at the direction of Gov. Martin O'Malley's office.
Duncan (D), who challenged O'Malley for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006, has served as the university's chief administrative and finance officer for 17 months. His departure, set for Nov. 7, was announced in an e-mail from university President C.D. Mote Jr., who praised Duncan's ability to "navigate the complexities of local, county and state development issues" as he led the redevelopment of the university's East Campus.
Duncan said last month that the university system's top lobbyist, former state senator P.J. Hogan, had relayed a message from the governor's office directing Duncan to pull out of a forum with O'Malley's former Republican opponent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
A statement issued by the university after the dustup said, "Duncan recognizes now that he misinterpreted informal advice from a friend and colleague as an official directive. Duncan has apologized to Hogan for the misunderstanding."
In a statement late yesterday, Duncan said he was proud of his tenure and did not "come to the decision lightly," but he did not give a reason for his departure. He said he will join CivicUS, a government advisory firm, next month as a co-founder and senior vice president for research and business development.
Hogan said yesterday that Duncan's decision to resign had "nothing to do" with the forum flap, which was first reported in the Washington Times and the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Mote said that he did not know why Duncan was leaving but that Duncan had talked publicly since the incident about his plans to look for another job.
"We wanted him to come, and we wanted him to stay," said Mote, who described the episode as "a little stress between friends."
Hogan expressed dismay about Duncan's decision, calling him a "perfect fit" because of his experience revitalizing downtown Silver Spring. Duncan got good reviews from Mote and others for his efforts in College Park to create a vibrant town center with upscale restaurants, a four-star hotel, student housing and a live music venue.
Even so, Hogan said, the transition from politician to private citizen was probably difficult. For 12 years, Duncan was in charge of Maryland's largest jurisdiction.
"You're used to being asked by the press to comment on issues, and that's not my job, nor is it Doug's job," said Hogan, who represented Montgomery County for 12 years.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), a College Park alumnus and booster, said he thought Duncan chafed under the university system regime. Duncan has been a "CEO, mayor of Rockville and county executive," he said, and "in the university system, you've got to deal with the hierarchy."
Duncan dropped out of the governor's race to seek treatment for depression more than two years ago. He told Washingtonian magazine last month that he felt "better than I have in years."