2020 | Bethesda Beat

Council members support restoring staff positions to their offices

Only Friedson voted against employee change, council office budget

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The Montgomery County Council is supporting a $12.6 million council office budget that included restoring some positions that have been unfunded.

Eight of the nine council members agreed to restore the full-time equivalent of 2.25 positions to their staff offices — one fewer position than County Executive Marc Elrich recommended in his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget. The council agreed to remove that new position — for a legislative attorney — from the budget.

Andrew Friedson was the only council member who voted against the additional staff members and the office budget.

The positions that council members agreed to restore have been left vacant and unfunded after employees left. The vacancies caused some council members’ offices to have fewer positions than others.

Council Member Nancy Navarro said adding the staff members would be important to help the council strengthen its capacity.

“We have had these vacancies,” she said during a May 7 council meeting. “Some of them because of personal illnesses and just other kinds of retirement and things like that. It’s important to keep in mind because when we talk about continuity of operations, I feel like this office has been caught in a weird space because they’re not where they should be in terms of ‘continuity of operations’ because of these vacancies.”

Marlene Michaelson, executive director of the County Council, said more positions would be needed in the future.

“I think ideal staffing would be at a higher level, but I think we need to delay that for now,” she said.

At least one of the positions will be used to staff the recently legislated Police Advisory Commission. The council currently has the full-time equivalent of 85.18 employees, which includes central staff.

In a text message on Friday, Friedson told Bethesda Beat that he didn’t feel it was the right time to add staff members.

“I agree with my colleagues that there are increasing demands on council staff who are taking on ever increasing responsibility to meet the complex needs of our growing county before and especially during this crisis, but I just didn’t feel it was the right time in this environment to add new positions to the Council budget,” he wrote.

“I’m deeply grateful to our amazing staff who are working tirelessly every day, and very much respect my colleagues and appreciate their reasons for feeling differently.”

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.