Montgomery Planner Tried To Hinder Audit, Report Finds

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 12, 2009

Montgomery County's planning director tried to block an investigation of his spending practices and those of his agency, according to a report by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The audit report details instances in which Montgomery Planning Director Rollin Stanley "failed to fully cooperate" with requests for information, delayed auditors' interviews with staff members and provided "misleading and contradictory information." The report says Stanley lacked "high ethical and professional standards."

The report, provided late Friday to The Washington Post in response to a public records request, says Stanley had improperly used his government credit card, paid too much for some meals and failed to properly document his spending. Some sections of the audit were deleted because they related to proprietaryinformation about computer security, officials said.

"The unwillingness to cooperate," the report says, delayed the investigation of a computer firewall purchase, credit card usage and other agency practices and could encourage other employees to withhold information from auditors. Such behavior sends "a wrong message throughout the department."

The audit says that "abuse of credit card privilege . . . may erode taxpayers' confidence" in the agency and that there was a "lack of concern and adverse defensive behavior." The audit concludes that there was evidence of "the strong presence of personal interest over the [agency's] interest."

"We believe the department's ability to improve its internal control weakness has been hindered by the attitude of the senior leadership," the audit says.

In an interview, planning board Chairman Royce Hanson defended Stanley, saying he had stepped up his efforts to comply with agency rules and was "one of the best planning directors in the country."

"I am quite satisfied that things are going in the right direction and quite satisfied that Rollin is doing a very fine job of directing the department," Hanson said. "The story as far as I am concerned is that things have been corrected."

Stanley, 51, joined the Montgomery planning agency in February 2008. He is paid $179,400 annually.

The audit began in a routine manner last spring, agency officials said, when auditor Abinet Y. Belachew and his staff were trying to sort out why a government-issued credit card was used to pay for the computer fix at the Montgomery agency.

The auditors' initial findings then led to questions about Stanley's spending habits, because some of the purchases were linked to him.

Stanley was cited for improperly using his agency credit card to buy furniture for his office, some meals that exceeded the spending limit and, in one instance, alcohol. He was cited for using his cellphone for calls unrelated to work.

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