Raises ire of county workers

Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin says she is not pushing a $1.3 million, no-bid contract that her fellow lawmakers are concerned could be a conflict of interest.

The Silver Spring Democrat said she has been discussing a proposal for streamlining the county's planning process with real estate investor Chris McGoff, but their talks were never private or secret. She also said there is no contract.

"There's nothing secret," she said. "This is the most transparent -- I just don't understand why someone would have an issue with this."

According to a copy of a plan created by McGoff, however, the document is intended only for the County Council to see -- not the public -- unless "a contract is awarded to this offer."

Ervin has come under fire for what council sources and county employees say is a conflict of interest and is being criticized by the county government's main union.

According to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner, Ervin is lobbying for a $1.3 million no-bid contract allowing McGoff's firm to have a hands-on role in determining the county's planning process, with the ability to intervene in decision-making.

Ervin said she had not heard any backlash about the proposal. She also said she doesn't think the fact that McGoff's firm is looking to build a dozen townhouses near the Westfield Wheaton mall is a conflict of interest. McGoff, Ervin says, has been talking to a variety of county officials on a proposal for the planning board.

"I don't see what the big deal is," she said.

Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large, said not all council members were notified of the contract, and he said he was never approached to be included in discussions.

He said discussions between county legislators and staff

and McGoff were deemed "private," and he only learned about the issue from other council members.

The Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, or MCGEO, is blasting Ervin, saying it is insulting she would push forward a contract without full disclosure.

"It's absurd and an insult to the Maryland-National [Capital] Park and Planning Commission and the citizens who sit on the commission who, by the way, are appointed by the council and have been working on changes to the process for the past two years," the statement from MCGEO reads. "And Valerie's trying to get it done behind closed doors: no public comments, just back door political maneuvering."