Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist was attacked yesterday by Wade Dunn, his Democratic primary opponent, for allegedly using his top aides to campaign on county time and for appointing political loyalists to county jobs.
Dunn, a media systems designer making his first run for political office, called for Gilchrist's executive assistants, Edmond F. Rovner and Thomas B. Stone, to resign from the county payroll and join Gilchrist's reelection campaign staff for the remainder of the campaign. He called Rovner "a political retread brought in to conduct campaign business" and said Stone recently was seen handing out campaign literature during working hours.
Dunn also called for the resignation of part-time county employe Daryl W. Shaw. He said Shaw, a former high school principal and school board member who advises Gilchrist on education matters, cochaired a Gilchrist fundraiser.
An angry Gilchrist called Dunn's charges ridiculous. He said his employes "are quite careful about keeping their records to use comp time or annual leave" when they perform campaign work during office hours. Stone produced a time sheet showing he took annual leave hours the day he was seen campaigning in Silver Spring.
County Administrative Officer Robert Wilson recently distributed a memo reminding employes that the county charter prohibits public employes from doing anything other than county business during working hours.
Although Gilchrist's campaign headquarters officially does not open until Sunday, he has an official campaign staff, consisting of attorney Gilbert Lessenco as chairman and Jean Blinkoff as full-time paid coordinator. Gilchrist's aides also insisted that the campaign has a seperate press secretary, Ron Mitchell.
Several reporters said yesterday they were unaware that Mitchell, head of the Ron Mitchell and Associates advertising and public relations firm, was the campaign press secretary. Mitchell himself seemed unaware, saying, "Is that so?" when informed by a reporter that Gilchrist said he was the spokesman. Then Mitchell added, "Any question you have, I will try to take a shot at it."
Reporters seeking an official comment or rebuttal to an opponent's political attacks always have sought out the caustic and quote-ready Rovner.
For example, when Republican Del. Luiz Simmons announced his campaign for executive in late May by criticizing Gilchrist for county layoffs, it was Rovner who retorted that Simmons was "unencumbered by information." When Council member Esther Gelman criticized Gilchrist's handling of a program to trap rabid racoons, Rovner replied, "I'd be more afraid of being bitten by Esther."
Yesterday Rovner said, "I think Esther ought to do her own dirty work." Rovner accused Dunn of launching attacks for Gelman, who is heading her own council slate, running against a slate endorsed by Gilchrist.
Gelman said she was flabbergasted at Rovner's suggestion that Dunn was mudslinging in her behalf. "I don't know where Mr. Rovner gets his nightmares," she said. "This is just demented."
Dunn also accused Gilchrist of appointing political loyalists over experienced people in county government. Dunn cited the appointments of Stone; Thomas Abraham, facilities and services director; Richard Ferrara, landlord and tenant affairs director, and former aide Gerard Evans.
"I am afraid in Mr. Gilchrist we have a combination of Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon," said Dunn. "The poor appointments and weak management of Mr. Carter, and the political hard ball of Nixon.