WSSC meets, no GM nominee announced
Senate president calls for massive overhaul' of agency
This story was corrected on June 17, 2009. An explanation of the correction is at the end of the story.
Almost 16 months after the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission began its search for a new general manager, the six-member governing board is still struggling to agree on a candidate to lead the nation's eighth-largest water and sewer utility.
Commissioners met behind closed doors Friday night at the Greenbelt Marriott on the utility's "transition plan," but no announcement of a new nominee for general manager was forthcoming. On Tuesday, the commission set another closed-door meeting on the issue for 11 a.m. Thursday, WSSC Corporate Secretary Charlett Bundy said.
A source close to the general manager selection process said the commission is "closer than multiple candidates" in its consideration of a new chief, but presumably is not prepared to trot out a nominee to lead the utility that serves most residents of Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
A new consensus choice could be announced later this week or next, said Patrick K. Lacefield, spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. James Keary, spokesman for Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, said he expects an announcement in the "near future."
Meanwhile, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller on Monday pressed Johnson to expedite appointment of a general manager at the bicounty utility.
"It is far past time for a massive overhaul of this agency," Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach wrote in a letter to Johnson. Miller said he was frustrated by the "level of total incompetence" at the commission and accused commissioners of waiting so long to attend to maintenance issues that they were pressed to approve a large rate increase during the "worst recession since the Great Depression."
He also railed about recent sewage spills into Piscataway Creek, but utility officials say there was just one spill into the creek of roughly 30,500 gallons.
"If these issues cannot be addressed at the local level by the time the General Assembly convenes in January, state legislators cannot in good conscience allow things to continue as they have been," Miller wrote.
Keary declined to comment on Miller's missive, saying that if the letter were intended for the county executive it would have been sent to him first, not reporters.
Miller, however, said Tuesday that he contacted the county executive's office several times and told Johnson two months ago that he was going to write the letter, so it should not have been a surprise.
"There's no excuse for this having dragged on," Miller said of the search for a general manager.
"You've got to divorce yourself from politics and put principle above politics" and pick the best person to lead the agency, Miller said.
"In another year we'll have another county executive and, hopefully, a better working relationship between the county executives and the commissioners," he added.
In other WSSC-related news, David Chardavoyne, the former San Antonio Water System chief who was nominated for the WSSC position in March, is now looking at other utility management jobs, including one at the second-largest water system in the San Antonio area.
Chardavoyne, who initially had the support of Johnson and Leggett, ran into trouble when Johnson withdrew his support after learning that a discrimination complaint had been filed against Chardavoyne, who has been widely credited with increasing diversity and hiring more minority managers.
Chardavoyne has heard nothing "officially" regarding the WSSC job but is still interested, he said.
Correction: This story previously said that a closed-door meeting was to be held at 9:30 a.m. The commission changed the meeting time to 11 a.m.