The Washington Post

Montgomery executive skips appearance before council

Nothing stirs the blood of elected officials quite like getting taken by surprise when an unpleasant or inconvenient story lands in the media.

Montgomery County Council members were furious when The Washington Post reported on April 25 that Metro said in a letter that it would not take control of the Silver Spring Transit Center as planned because of construction flaws. Most distressing was that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) had kept the letter to himself for nearly two weeks. This came after council members thought they had an agreement from Leggett to keep them in the loop on the transit center debacle.

Council members signed a letter last Friday demanding that he appear at Wednesday’s hearing to explain the lapse in communications.

Leggett, citing schedule conflicts, sent senior staff instead. Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine told the council that his office was trying to gather more information about the significance of the Metro letter before briefing members, an explanation that didn’t go over well.

Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) said he was capable of figuring out the significance for himself. “We are all experienced in politics and government,” Leventhal said. “We can handle complexity. We can handle nuance.”

As for Leggett’s absence, it was noted, none too happily, by Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County).

“We invited the county executive because we are all accountable to the voters,” Navarro said. “We are disappointed. We would have been happy to accommodate his schedule.”

Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the council made no attempt to accommodate Leggett’s schedule. For the record, he joined Discovery Communications officials to announce a new STEM (Science Technology and Math) education initiative.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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