More On Rockville

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So earlier today, I mentioned that I had received a press release about Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton’s alleged ethical transgressions. I’m not going to print the release, but the contradictions fairly leap from the page. There are four main complaints:

First, the Osdoby campaign is unhappy that former Mayor Steve Van Grack endorsed Newton:

Former Mayor Steve Van Grack recently wrote to Sima Osdoby, one of the two mayoral candidates, to offer his client’s support for her campaign-if Sima adopted a controversial position favorable to their business. Sima quickly wrote back to reject the offer. I can provide copies of both letters. Two weeks after Sima rejected him, Van Grack donated to incumbent Bridget Newton’s campaign. Friday, Newton unveiled Van Grack’s endorsement in the attached mass mailing.

There’s no story here - taken at face value, Van Grack offered HIS CLIENT’S support for Osdoby in return for Osdoby adopting a particular position. She refuses. Later, Van Grack offered HIS OWN support to Newton, and Osdoby has no idea - other than pure conjecture - whether Van Grack placed any condition on his personal endorsement as he allegedly did on behalf of his unnamed client. Seen this way, the complaint here is petulant and whiny. Logic 101 grade: F.

The second claim involves Newton’s unwillingness to testify on a state bill requiring disclosure of spouse’s financial information for municipal candidates in Maryland. While I support the idea of such a bill, there are many who do not, and the argument is that it will drive away otherwise qualified candidates. The bill did not pass in 2015, it has been up for discussion in one form or another for several years, and if I’m not mistaken - I very well could be - I distinctly recall that then-Mayor David Lublin of Chevy Chase advocated against applying state ethics law generally to municipal elections and candidates.

The third and fourth claims are about Newton’s “nomination” or “appointment” of Don Hadley for the Rockville Planning Commission in 2010. Several readers have noted to me that it is solely the purview of the mayor - then Phyllis Marcuccio - to make appointments to public boards and the like. From the law (Section 2-218 of the City Code), this is true: “Boards and commissions shall consist of members that may include alternate members, appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by the Council.” What Bridget Newton - then a member of the City Council - did in 2010 was to simply make the nomination before the Council. She did not decide that Hadley should be nominated, she was simply offering the mayor’s candidate for a vote. David Lublin wrote originally that Newton “nominated” Hadley - this is spurious. But it provided the basis for Osdoby to claim that Newton “appointed” Hadley - this is completely mendacious. And Lublin simply reported it again, presumably not even noticing the change.

And if Osdoby was so upset about Hadley’s relationship with Newton, why in the world did she agree to have him moderate the debate last week? She could have vetoed that idea out of hand, but she didn’t. So she has no one else to blame but herself. The same is true of any council candidate, including the other four members of Osdoby’s Team Rockville slate. Why didn’t anyone bring this up? Good question - a shame nobody asked it. Including the guy who carried the water for the whole sorry mess of allegations. Yeah, David Lublin again. This is recycling in the not so good sense of the word, upping the ante on baseless allegations as the election draws closer.

I do not have a dog in the Rockville fight. I don’t know any of the players. I lived in Rockville for one year back in 1991-1992 while I was a law clerk to a judge in the courthouse there. My law office was there from 1996-2000. That’s it. As I indicated, I was inclined to say nothing about the press release at all because of the obvious problems with it. But when I saw what appears to me to be completely one-sided reporting and bullying and quite frankly slander, I get upset, regardless of who is involved. One side is dominating the public discussion of this election and that discussion has turned increasingly dishonest in the past several days. If I can help level the playing field, even a little bit, then I feel like I’ve done something good. And I really, really wish I’d stop finding David Lublin in the middle of every sleazy, shitty story I look at. I’m tired of talking about him.

Folks in Rockville, go vote tomorrow. But be informed. A truly informed voter is the most powerful weapon history has ever seen. But when you see allegations like this flying around just before an election, look carefully not only at what is being said, but who’s saying it, and why. Ask questions, use common sense. If something smells like shit, there’s probably a trash can full of it somewhere nearby.

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