2019 | Government

Elrich Calls For Resignation of Charter Review Commission Member

Letter to editor sparks outrage with language called 'inappropriate and unacceptable'

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County Executive Marc Elrich

County Executive Marc Elrich has called for Katherine Gugulis, a member of the county’s charter review commission, to step down after she wrote a letter to the editor published in The Washington Post opposing a proposal by the County Council to allow more accessory apartments.

Elrich, who has opposed the council’s ADU proposal due to concerns over traffic, school crowding and other potential practical issues, wrote Thursday that Gugulis had expressed “thoughts and beliefs that are not consistent with my commitment to fostering a more inclusive and culturally sensitive County.”

“The language she used was inappropriate and unacceptable, especially for a person who was recently appointed to serve on the County’s Charter Review Commission,” he wrote.

Gugulis’s June 16 letter alleged that the ADU proposal would “turn Montgomery County into a slum” by causing property values to decline and neighbors to flee due to aesthetic issues.

“Allowing campers, trailers and storage containers to be put in a neighbor’s backyard to house low-income residents is a slap in the face to those people who have worked hard to build a comfortable home and neighborhood,” Gugulis wrote.

Gugulis wrote that the council should instead loosen development restrictions in order to encourage developers to build affordable housing.

“Just because others flee crime-ridden and poverty-stricken areas doesn’t mean Montgomery County has to be turned into a slum to accommodate them,” she wrote.

Gugulis wrote in an email Thursday that she had not been contacted by Elrich and did not intend to resign from the commission which studies and recommends changes to the county’s governing charter.

Gugulis’s letter prompted swift reaction from council members, including Council President Nancy Navarro, who called it “a shrill dog whistle designed to stoke unreasonable fear among residents in our communities, one that reeks of class privilege and entitlement.”

“The narrative offered by Ms. Gugulis and several others regarding ADUs seeks to frame this issue as a binary; rich and poor, black and white, immigrant, and non-immigrant, and is quite frankly appalling,” Navarro wrote.

Navarro’s fellow council members have also condemned Gugulis for her letter, although none have asked her to resign.

The 11-member bipartisan charter review commission is responsible for reporting to the council with suggested changes to the charter in every even-numbered year. Members are appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the council.

Elrich wrote that he did not see anything concerning about her views during her interview process.

“At no point in the review of Ms. Gugulis’ request to serve on the Commission did my staff nor I find any indication that she held the views expressed in her letter,” he wrote.

Council member Hans Riemer said in an interview Thursday he agreed that Gugulis should resign, but that the council would not remove her from the commission.

“That’s not an option. You can remove a person for misconduct or unethical behavior. She’s just expressing her view,” he said. “It is what it is. She expressed her view. A lot of people disagree with her. I’m sure a few people agree with her, and that’s all there really is to say about that.”

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