Montgomery Council launches probe of an official who kept the well-stocked bar in his office

The Montgomery County Council will conduct an inquiry of a top official, Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson after he admitted to keeping dozens of bottles of alcohol in his office.

The Maryland-National Capital Park And Planning Commission’s Office of the Inspector General became aware last month that Anderson kept alcohol in the office when it received an anonymous tip via email.

According to WJLA-TV (ABC-7), which first reported on the matter, the email alleged that Anderson would drink in his office, occasionally with colleagues and that he “has over 32 bottles of hard liquor in his office where he routinely creates mixed drinks and distributes them on a significant scale.”

The OIG contacted the whistleblower, who declined to meet, but the person did identify 10 M-NCPPC employees who had consumed alcohol with Anderson in his office or were aware of the practice, according to the station.

ABC-7 obtained the inspector general’s confidential report, which determined that “these activities typically occurred after extended Planning Board meetings or late Friday afternoons.” Anderson acknowledged that he kept a well-stocked bar in his office, drank with colleagues and that he was aware that the planning commission generally prohibits alcohol in the workplace.

Shortly after the allegations surfaced, he removed the alcohol from his office.

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Reached by phone on Friday, Anderson declined to comment. In a statement, he said: “Until recently I kept alcohol in the office and from time to time shared a drink with colleagues — at the end of the workday, after regular business hours. I should not have done this in a Commission office building, even after work. I take full responsibility, I have removed the alcohol, and I apologize.”

In an interview, Council President Gabe Albornoz (D) said he and his colleagues are “very concerned” about Anderson’s practice of drinking at work and have launched their own review.

“The Council oversees Casey because he is a political appointee,” said Albornoz. “So whatever action is taken will be the council’s responsibility.” He said the panel cannot disclose details because they consider the issue to be a personnel matter.

Albornoz declined to speculate on potential sanctions, but he said the council would be guided in part by how the commission has handled instances in which other employees have engaged in similar conduct.

“There are factors that are going to be considered. Scope and any sort of precedent. We’re looking at commission rules [as well as] how the commission handled other incidences in which alcohol has been involved with merit-level employees to see if there is some guidance,” he said. “All of those are factors that we’re going to weigh.”

Albornoz said the council hopes to resolve the matter “as quickly as possible,” adding, “We’re basically in the information-gathering phase right now.”

According to commission policy, “The M-NCPPC prohibits the manufacture, distribution, sale, presence, or use of controlled substances and alcohol in the workplace, M-NCPPC vehicles, and other agency property.”

Employees found to be in violation of commission policy “may be subject to disciplinary action up to, and including, termination of employment.”

Anderson has served on the planning board since 2011; he was appointed chair in 2014. He also serves as chair of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the bi-county agency that regulates development, plans transportation, and manages the park systems in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

An attorney and an advocate of transit-oriented development, Anderson has battled the State Highway Administration over Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and I-270. He has had occasionally tense relations with the union that represents some commission employees.

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