A Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission member said yesterday that Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist tried to offer him another job if he would step down from office quietly before the executive announced his plan to fire him.
Commissioner Bert Cumby testified yesterday that Gilchrist "said if I accepted this position with the liquor board he would call a press conference" and say that Cumby "was an outstanding commissioner" who had done "an excellent job but had decided to resign to accept another job".
Cumby characterized Gilchrist's offer as "a deal" yesterday at a public hearing required under state law before the county executive, with the consent of the county council, can remove a WSSC commissioner. It was the latest event in a politica controversy in which some council members have called Cumby's announced dismissal an insidious attack against an honorable man, and others have said it was long overdue and that Cumby had voted against the county's best interests and against the executive's instructions.
Prince George's and Montgomery - whose representatives make up the WSSC - have been fighting over allocations of sewer capacity, which is needed to attract new growth, and other sewer-related issues.
Last Thursday, the day after Gilchrist announced his intention to remove Cumby, the Prince George's members of the bi-county commission elected Cumby chairman. The surprised Montgomery commissioners call the election a "super fast one" and a "slap in the face" at Gilchrist.
Gilchrits said yesterday he asked Cumby to resign because he felt communications between the commissioners and himself must be improved, and that Cumby's election as chairman and his testimony were "further evidence of the difficulty in this communication."
Gilchrist said he felt Cumby was a "valuable citizen" of the country and that he had asked him to "to consider alternative service to the country. I do not characterize that as a "deal," but as a sincere offer to permit him to be of service to the country in another capacity."