Monday, November 26, 2012

We're Havin' a Party!

Yep, that's right.  EYA, property developers in Montgomery County and the greater Washington area, are celebrating 20 years of business.   Entertainment by Dark Star Orchestra. To be held at the Fillmore, Silver Spring on November 29th.

And guess who is on the guest list and has accepted?

Of those listed below, the highlighted names have direct impact on how many units EYA can build in any of its developments.
Casey Anderson (party of 2), Planning Board Member
David Dise, Director, Montgomery County Director, Department of General Services
Hans Riemer, County Council member (D-At-Large)
Nancy Floreen, County Council member (D-At-Large and Chair of Planning, Housing, and Economic Development [PHED] Committee)
Robert Kronenberg, Planning Department staff member
Steve Silverman, Director, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development
Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth

Ike Leggett, County Executive
Roger Berliner, County Council member (D-District 1 and County Council President)

EYA hired Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band whose gigs (U.S. and Canada) are managed by SRO.  Tickets for events at the Fillmore usually go for $35 and up. Fillmore's pricing list for renting the place...about $10,000, plus the requirement to use their bar ($42/person if you want top shelf booze);  and their caterer. 

It appears that EYA will be spending over $50/person -- the legal limit according to County ethics law.

Sec. 19A-16. Soliciting or accepting gifts.

(c) A public employee must not knowingly accept a direct or indirect gift from any individual or organization that the public employee knows or reasonably should know:
              (1)     is registered, or must register, as a lobbyist on a matter
that is or could be considered by the County agency with which the public
employee is affiliated;
              (2)     does business with the County agency with which the public
employee is affiliated;
              (3)     owns or operates a business that is regulated by the County
agency with which the public employee is affiliated; or
(4)     has an identifiable economic interest that is different
from that of the general public, which the public employee may substantially
affect in performing the public employee's official duties.

(d) Subsection (c) does not apply to:
              (1)     meals and beverages which do not exceed $50 from the same
source in any calendar year;
              (2)     ceremonial gifts or awards with a resale value of $100 or
less, if the gift or award commemorates an event or achievement associated with
the public employee.
              (3)     items of personal property, other than cash, worth less
than $10;
              (4)     reasonable expenses for food, travel, lodging, and
scheduled entertainment of the public employee, given in return for the public
employee's participation in a panel or speaking at a meeting;
              (5)     gifts to an elected official, or that official’s designee
who is assigned to represent the official at an event included in this
paragraph, if the gift:
                       (A)     is a courtesy extended to the office; and
                       (B)     consists of tickets or free admission for the employee
and one guest to attend a charitable, cultural, civic, labor, trade, sports, or
political event, including meals and beverages served at the event;
              (6)     any item that is solely informational or of an advertising
nature, including a book, report, periodical, or pamphlet, if the resale value
of the item is $25 or less;
              (7)     gifts from a relative;
              (8)     honoraria or awards for achievement; or
              (9)     a specific gift or class of gifts which the Commission
exempts from this Section after finding in writing that accepting the gift or
class of gifts is not detrimental to the impartial conduct of the business of a
County agency.

(e) Subsection (c) does not apply to unsolicited gifts to a County agency.

(f) A public employee who receives a gift that the public employee must not accept under this Section must report the gift to the Commission, if otherwise required to report it, and return the gift to the donor or transfer the gift to the County. If the unacceptable gift is a perishable item, the employee, instead of transferring the gift to the County, may transfer it to a charitable or educational organization that can make timely and effective use of the gift, so long as the employee is not an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee of the receiving organization. (1990 L.M.C., ch. 21, § 1; 1994 L.M.C., ch. 25, § 1; 1997 L.M.C., ch. 37, § 1; 2010 L.M.C., ch. 5, § 1.)

NOTE—See County Attorney Opinion dated 12/6/02 discussing whether a public employee may accept an honorarium or other reimbursement of expenses in return for a speech or presentation. See County Attorney Opinion dated 7/8/02 describing the extent to which quasi-judicial officials may engage in political activities. See County Attorney Opinion dated 12/14/98 addressing the creation of “Friends of Recreation” for revenue-raising activities. 

If you can’t make it next week, we hear there is an even bigger holiday party at the Congressional Country Club -- sponsored by Linowes and Blocher.


  1. Isn't this a little off topic?
    What does a real estate firm greasing local palms have to do with our schools?

    So they build more homes per square mile. So what? Increased neighborhood density brings more delightful children into our already overcrowded classrooms and those portable classrooms that get kids into the fresh air several times a day. "Growth" is always good. What's the beef?

    1. Mr. Jacobs: Thanks for the laugh! Yes, our elected leaders think "growth" is always good. They have no thought for consequences as long as they are on the party circuit. Maybe the "growth" they support is the "growth" in their party invitations?

  2. Mr. Jacobs, No, it's not off-topic, thanks for the comment and the spirit in which it was posted.

    First, it is evidence of the same 'ethics-free' 'no-transparency' 'grease the palm' secret "we're all friends here" backroom deals that occur at MCPS. What you see at MCPS is one tentacle of a much larger animal that is the entire county government. or quasi-government, depending on the agency. It is important to the citizens of this county to see what our government does. This is a perfect example of what goes on behind the scenes. So much easier, and this secret schmoozing is what allows our county councilmembers to vote unanimously every time!

    Second, 'more homes per square mile,' as you point out, translates directly into: more crowded schools. mega-schools. dangerous pedestrian crossings at schools, all of which you note in your comment.

    It is all one big secret crony government blob.

  3. Paula:

    Based on the number of people invited, the cost per person appears likely to be under the $50 limit applicable to county government employees (although our lawyers tell me that the rules applicable to M-NCPPC, which is not a county government agency, set a $75 limit).

    In any event, out of an abundance of caution, I plan to write EYA a check for $75 (my wife can't make it) so there is absolutely no question about getting anything for free.

    BTW, I don't have much interest in seeing Dark Star Orchestra (I never developed an appreciation for the Grateful Dead), but I'm looking forward to congratulating EYA on 20 years of success in an important and sometimes challenging niche: high quality urban infill within walking (and biking) distance of amenities.

    Casey Anderson

    1. To Casey Anderson:

      Your response is the defintion of "Chutzpah!"

  4. Casey, thanks for responding. There is however such a think as conflict of interest and in this case taking high-level hospitality from a developer looks to the public to be a conflict of interest. In the case of EYA in particular, you and Robert Kronenberg are right now working on specific site plan issues that include density levels/unit yield for EYA, and you will be voting on whether to approve the density level that neighbors consider unsustainable. Being a guest receiving hospitality at an over-the-top 'celebration' of a developer whose plans are right now being reviewed appears to be a conflict of interest. I don't see how making a $75 check out to EYA changes that. Then the question becomes, why are you paying cash to a developer at the same time you are reviewing their site plans?


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