Tense Times for MoCo's Council
Last night's union meeting in Montgomery County was meant to improve communication between labor leaders and elected leaders, but it also exposed lingering unease among council members as they jockey for committee assignments following the death this month of their colleague Marilyn Praisner
The rift emerged when a union leader questioned why some of the millions the county is setting aside for retiree health benefits couldn't be used to help balance the books.
New accounting rules require state and local officials to report and begin covering the cost of providing health care benefits to current and future retirees or risk their standing with the bond rating agencies.
Council President Michael Knapp was sympathetic, saying he too was "caught off guard by the size" of the commitments made over the years by the county's finance team and the council members who have met with the Wall Street rating agencies.
Council member Duchy Trachtenberg, chair of the council's fiscal committee, was on last year's trip and interpreted Knapp's comments as criticism.
"In the past few weeks, there has clearly been some attempt by the council president to marginalize me," said Trachtenberg, who explained that the "misrepresentation" had forced her to speak out.
"I am very concerned about some of what was said last night, most notably the suggestion that I was involved with some sort of backroom deal."
When asked about Trachtenberg's reaction this morning, Knapp said he is "certainly not picking any fights with my colleagues" and that it was a "pretty significant misunderstanding on the part of my colleague."
The funding commitments were reached over the course of three years - long before Trachtenberg joined the council, he said. "I thought I explained that last night," Knapp added. "Clearly, she didn't have anything to do with it."
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