Montgomery council appoints interim planning board


Montgomery County Council appointed a former planning department employee and a former planning committee member Thursday to serve as part of a temporary planning committee after the previous board resigned amid investigations into ethics and misconduct.

The two were among five residents appointed to serve until a new council elected in November selects a permanent board.

The officers selected were Jeffrey Zyontz, an attorney who worked for both the Planning Department and the Montgomery Council on land use issues; Amy Presley, a former planning committee member and Clarksburg activist; Cherri Branson, former District Procurement Director who served a year on the District Council; David Hill, a former member of the Rockville Planning Commission; and Roberto Piñero, a former housing analyst for the US Government Accountability Office.

Montgomery Planning Committee resigns amid scandals at council urging

Zyontz will serve as interim chairman of the board and Presley will serve as vice chairman. The chair is a full-time position earning $228,000 annually, while the other four members, who are part-time, are paid $30,000 annually, the council said. They were selected from 11 finalists among 128 applicants.

Council President Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) said three permanent members would be appointed by March 1, while the permanent chair and one other member would be selected by June 14. A staggering of appointments would ensure a continuous four-year tenure as board members expire, he said.

The board approves development proposals and recommends community master plans, zoning changes, and land use policies to the council. It is considered highly influential because questions about how, where, and how quickly development should occur often dominate political discussion in Maryland’s most populous suburb.

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Council members said the provisional appointments reflected a diversity of race and ethnicity, experience and political party affiliation.

“This was an unprecedented situation,” said Councilor Evan Glass (D-At Large). “Some people even called it a crisis. But this council stepped in and acted quickly to restore confidence in our public institutions.”

Accumulation of allegations, declining morale led to upheavals in the planning committee

The appointments come two weeks after the entire board resigned at the insistence of the council after investigations and allegations were leaked to the media. They included findings that the CEO had served alcohol in his office and allegations that the vice chairman had made false claims against the chairman in order to get his job.

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