The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is negotiating to buy out the remaining 15 months on the contracts of the water-and-sewer agency's general manager, John R. Griffin, and his top deputy, Griffin said yesterday.
The talks are the latest attempt by the WSSC to part with Griffin and his deputy, P. Michael Errico. Four of the agency's six commissioners voted to fire Griffin and Errico at a closed meeting Feb. 18. But days later, the agency's attorneys concluded that the firing was invalid because the purpose of the closed meeting had not been advertised.
Commissioners have accused Griffin and Errico of mismanaging funds at the public utility, which provides water and sewer service to 1.6 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Since the Feb. 18 vote, relations between the two managers and some of the commissioners have not improved, said Jinhee Kim Wilde, a commissioner who supports Griffin. "Things are not easy," she said. "What kind of impact might this have on our customers?"
She said Griffin's salary is about $170,000 and Errico's is less.
Wilde and another commissioner, Luis Valencia, declined to comment on the reported buyout negotiations. Three other commissioners did not return messages, and one commissioner could not be located.
Griffin said he is unsure when the discussions will be resolved. "There's been a lot of opportunities when I thought we were close to having a meeting of the minds, and then things happened," he said. "Some commissioners had changes of heart or mind."
It is possible, he said, that no settlement will be reached and that he and Errico will stay at the WSSC. "All things being equal, I would prefer to stay," he said. "I didn't precipitate this."
But some county officials who support Griffin said it might be best for him to accept a settlement. "I think it is a very untenable position for him to be in when half the commissioners are interested in him leaving," said Montgomery County Council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large). "This may be in the best interests of the commission as a whole."
Griffin, a former secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, became general manager in 1999.