County Executive’s Pace in Filling Key Management Jobs Questioned by Council

County Executive’s Pace in Filling Key Management Jobs Questioned by Council

Council president also says executive branch has been too slow to dispense emergency information

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County Executive Marc Elrich

The Montgomery County Council is asking County Executive Marc Elrich why key members of his cabinet have not been selected more than six months after he took office.

In a June 17 memo to Elrich, Council President Nancy Navarro said it is “troubling” that so many departments do not have permanent directors.

The county executive has yet to fill 10 permanent top-level positions in his cabinet.

“For those who depend on the services of those departments, for policy makers (including Councilmembers) who rely on their advice, and for the staff in the departments who are uncertain about the future direction of the department and what new leadership will bring. The council has heard concerns from numerous groups and individuals. Please indicate which positions are yet to be filled and the schedule for filling vacant positions,” Navarro wrote on behalf of her eight council colleagues.

While some departments have interim or acting leaders, Elrich has yet to appoint permanent directors to lead Housing and Community Affairs, Libraries, Human Resources, Finance and Permitting Services.

The head of the county’s jail system resigned last month to become the state’s corrections chief and the council is scheduled to vote next week on Elrich’s nominee for Health and Human Services.

Additionally, Elrich is in the process of conducting a national search for a police chief to replace 15-year veteran J. Thomas Manger, who retired in April. He also must fill the newly-created positions of Chief Digital Officer and Chief Equity Officer, which were created as part of a reorganization effort that eliminated four merit positions as a measure to save $750,000 per year and ensure that more aspects of county government operate directly under the county executive’s supervision.

Representatives from Elrich’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the council’s concerns in the memo. Elrich was on vacation between Monday and Sunday and could not be reached.

Navarro added that she is concerned about delays in receiving information about emergencies, writing that she generally sees information from media reports first.

“Council staff have developed a protocol ensuring timely notification for elected officials when there is an emergency event which is waiting for Executive input and concurrence and I believe this should be given immediate attention,” she wrote.

Navarro said in an interview Wednesday that the council convened a retreat last Friday to discuss county government procedure, and collectively expressed a desire to receive an update on the status of the various department vacancies.

“I personally have been forthright about making sure any time the administration sends over appointments, that I accommodate that as soon as possible. I’m starting to worry a bit because we’re already in the middle of June,” she said.

Navarro, who arrived to the council a decade ago during former County Executive Isiah Leggett’s first term, said she hadn’t served on the council during a transition prior to this one. She said the executive branch needs to follow consistent practices of distributing information during emergencies in a timely fashion. Last week’s death of a worker at the Shady Grove Transfer Station, she said, was an example of an event that council members learned about through the media first, as opposed to the administration.

“There are times when we read about it in the media first, so we want to clarify our process. We want to receive information in a timely fashion to see if there are any issues that we need to address,” she said.

“We’ve had 12 years of an administration where things were pretty much in place, and now that we have a new administration and council, we need to know what our processes are.”

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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