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Montgomery Co. official had full bar in office, drank with employees, OIG report says

Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson had a couple dozen of liquor bottles in his office, an OIG report states. (Kevin Lewis, 7News){p}{/p}
Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson had a couple dozen of liquor bottles in his office, an OIG report states. (Kevin Lewis, 7News)

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Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson has apologized after breaking policy by drinking alcohol in his government office on numerous occasions.

On Aug. 5, the Maryland-National Capital Park And Planning Commission's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) received an anonymous email. The email alleged that Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson had been drinking alcohol in his office with members of the Montgomery County Department of Parks and the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Anderson's office is located on the 14th floor of M-NCPPC headquarters along the 2400 block of Reedie Drive in Wheaton, Md.

The anonymous email that prompted this investigation claimed that Anderson, "has over 32 bottles of hard liquor in his office where he routinely creates mixed drinks and distributes them on a significant scale." The email further alleged Anderson "has forced many employees to drink.”

The OIG contacted the whistleblower to obtain more details. The whistleblower, however, would not agree to a meeting, but did identify 10 M-NCPPC employees by name whom, they said, partook in the consumption of alcohol or had intimate knowledge of the behavior.

In a confidential internal document obtained by 7News, the OIG stated two employees admitted to drinking in Anderson’s office, approximately two or more times per month.

“These activities typically occurred after extended Planning Board meetings or late Friday afternoons,” the OIG report detailed.

A third employee recalled accepting alcoholic beverages from Anderson on five or six occasions since Sept. 2020.

“For me, it was sort of a little bit of a question of interpretation. I do know that you aren’t supposed to have alcohol in the workplace. I guess I viewed having a drink after working hours, not during the workday, in my bosses’ office essentially as maybe skirting the edges of the policy, but definitely not a flagrant violation of policy,” the third employee told the OIG.

The OIG report included a color photograph of Anderson's in-office bar, which contained bottles of Jim Beam Bourbon, Bombay Sapphire Gin, and St Germain Liqueur. The bar also held items like citrus squeezers and a cocktail shaker.

On Aug 23, two-and-a-half weeks after the anonymous email, the OIG spoke with Anderson. During that conversation, Anderson acknowledged he had a bar in his office and was aware of M-NCCPC’s zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs and alcohol.

“I do acknowledge it, I am not going to characterize it,” Anderson told the OIG.

The OIG directly asked Anderson if he pressured any employees to partake in his office libations.

“Absolutely not,” Anderson responded.

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Following that conversation, Anderson decommissioned his in-office bar and sent a photo to the OIG of it all emptied out.

In its conclusion, the OIG stated Anderson “stored and routinely served alcoholic beverages to subordinate employees, commissioners, and visitors.” The OIG proceeded to note that “the practice was minimal when [Anderson’s] office was in Silver Spring and was more prevalent upon the move to the Wheaton Headquarters office building in September 2020.”

The OIG made clear that it found no evidence that Anderson’s drinking took place during normal working hours nor did it find evidence that Anderson directly coerced anyone to participate, but rather that there may have been “self-pressure to participate to ‘fit in.’”

In 2014, the Montgomery County Council appointed Anderson to be the Planning Board Chairman. In turn, it oversees him in an official capacity.

On Tuesday, the council held a lengthy closed session to review Anderson's conduct. M-NCPPC Inspector General Renee Kenney attended that meeting to answer any questions. The council only has the ability to discipline M-NCPPC members, like Anderson, who it appoints.

"To maintain the integrity of the proceedings related to personnel issues, the Montgomery Council cannot comment on this matter," Council President Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) said in a written statement to 7News. "I can assure Montgomery County residents that the council is taking appropriate personnel action.”

Part of the nearly 50-page packet provided to the county council during its closed session meeting included more than 60 instances where M-NCPPC employees were disciplined, demoted, and terminated for drug and/or alcohol abuse over the last 10 years.

To name a few, in 2019, a senior planner resigned in lieu of termination after being caught consuming alcohol at a work site, the document stated.

In 2015, a maintenance crew leader was given a five-day suspension after testing positive for alcohol during random testing.

In 2013, a crew leader received a one-day suspension after consuming alcohol at a restaurant during their lunch break. Two subordinate employees witnessed it.

In an Aug. 25 letter that was addressed to Albornoz, Prince George's County Planning Board Chairman Peter Shapiro noted that the commission has a "strict no alcohol policy in the workplace to ensure the safety of its employees and the public and to maintain a professional work environment and culture."

Shapiro — who is Anderson's counterpart in Prince George's County — went on to explain that all M-NCPPC personnel will be receiving updated training on the commission's "no alcohol" and ethics policies. Shapiro further vowed to have the director of human resources conduct a "full review" of any claims of alcohol in the workplace for non-appointed employees.

According to the OIG's report, employees who violate M-NCPPC's drug and/or alcohol policy will, at the bare minimum, receive a "formal supervisory referral" to the agency's employee assistance program. Discipline could result in termination, the report stated.

7News contacted the four Planning Board Commissioners that Anderson serves with on the five-member governing body. Commissioner Carol Rubin reached out to 7News. Commissioners Gerald Cichy, Tina Patterson, and Partap Verma, however, did not respond.

Anderson, who remains the Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman told 7News by email that he was sorry for the lapse in judgment.

"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."

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Editor's Note: 7News originally reported in the headline that the OIG report claimed Anderson "forced" individuals to drink alcohol. The anonymous email that started the investigation actually made those claims. The OIG report was unable to verify that allegation.

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