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Report Brings Candidate Debate To A Boil

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Published on: Thursday, October 17, 2013

By Holden Wilen

TWINBROOK –  The Saul Ewing report continues to create controversy in the city of Rockville, dominating an otherwise lethargic second debate among Rockville Mayoral and council candidates this week.

Debate moderator, Cheryl Kagan, a former Maryland delegate, asked the mayoral candidates about the Saul Ewing report, which came as a result of an investigation the city paid for after five former city employees told The Sentinel they experienced racism and discrimination.

Pierzchala stood by his previous comments, saying the city manager is the one with authority of personnel and that the council pledged absolute confidentiality. He did say the personnel policies and procedures manual need to be revised, and if elected mayor he would want to hire a third party law firm to ensure the policies are implemented correctly.

Newton stood by her recent comments as well, saying she would support viewing the report.

“The mayor and council are elected by the people and represent the people. After a year and a half we need to see it so we can ensure we are protecting the interests of city employees,” Newton said. “…I strongly disagree with Councilmember Pierzchala about spending more money and hiring another third party law firm.”

The only other moment that caused fireworks during the debate hosted by the Twinbrook Civic Federation occurred toward the beginning of the debate when  current Councilman Tom Moore discussed changes to the city’s ethics codes concerning financial disclosure by elected officials in an effort he said he helped to lead.

“Some cities got cold feet,” Moore said. “There was an effort by one of my colleagues on the council to weaken the effort to make changes, but it is an important part of democracy and in the end we passed a stronger version of the law thanks to the leadership efforts of Councilmember Mark Pierzchala and myself.”

Councilmember Bridget Donnell Newton, a mayoral candidate, took offense to Moore’s comments, saying she was never against ethics.

“I tried to find a balance between how much information is enough information and not divulging information that endangers the safety of individuals,” Newton said.

Another moment that caused viewers to take notice was when the

During the debate Claire Marcuccio Whitaker, a candidate for council, made an argument to not let the city take on any more debt. Gaithersburg has no debt, she said, and has money in its reserves for capital projects. Meanwhile, Rockville carries a $5 million debt service charge every year, which is enough money to pay the salaries of the city manager, city attorney and other accounts.

“We are not looking at the problem of budgeting in the right way,” Whitaker said.

Don Hadley, another council candidate, also cautioned against urbanization because of traffic congestion. The city is in gridlock, he said, and the proposed bus rapid transit system by Montgomery County would only have two stops in Rockville. The city needs to create alternative streets which it would own, he said.

All of the candidates also chimed in on what they thought about the use of social media.

Pierzchala said he uses Facebook, but it is difficult to know how effective social media is. Newton said social media has its place, but not at council meetings. Additionally, she said she does not have the time to keep up with Facebook and Twitter.

Virginia Onley, a council candidate, said she uses social media, but she is “probably the last person who started using it.” Hadley said he is not a “social media butterfly” and still relies on email, but if he needed to use social media more he would.

Julie Palakovich Carr said she thinks the city needs to stay involved with social media and should actually get more involved. Meanwhile, Moore said he thinks the city does a good job and he tried to incorporate Twitter into council meetings but got a negative reaction from some of his colleagues.

The final debate is scheduled for Oct. 22 and will be hosted by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County at the Thomas Farm Community Recreation Center.

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