Receipt, Please. And I mean it!

Receipt, Please. And I mean it!

When the Montgomery County Plannning Board sat back in their chairs at the end of a long, long set of hearings on July 16, everyone knew it was an historic day. The Board had approved the White Flint Sector Plan, the West Gaithersburg “Science City” Plan and several other major initiatives, including the new Commercial/Residential (“CR”) Zone. It had been a frantic several weeks of work. The pressure began building in January, as Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson laid out the timetable required to provide guidance to the County Council. Staff whispered about e-mail ques dozens of messages long, with every move generating new waves of contacts.

Now one more casualty of that stressful time has appeared: Rollin Stanley, the new Director of Planning and staff Director, has given up his Board credit card. Stanley was the driving force behind the new CR zone, utilizing his expertise from St. Louis and Canadian planning agencies. He was also a driven individual, intense, brilliant, not used to Montgomery County’s endless deliberations, uber-sophisticated residents, and millions of pages of rules. He had ideas, he was in tune with the Planning Board’s new visions for a sustainable, transit-oriented county, and he was in a hurry.

So, the Washington Post reported today, under the headline “Montgomery Planner Gives Up Credit Card,” the alarming claim that “Stanley has surrendered his government-issued credit card, and he has paid back about $600 for meals and other expenses auditors said were wrongly charged.” But was it some personal scandal, where Stanley was racking up Cristal tabs at Ray’s The Steaks and other fine dining experiences, and booking trips to Argentina?

Apparently not. First, he was taking out other employees, not mistresses, and he went to the Silver Diner; nice, but not exactly white tablecloth. The article’s second paragraph notes that “officials said this week that they expect he will be allowed to claim most of that [additional expenses] because the expenses appear legitimate, although not fully documented.”

And if you continue to read the article, after the jump to the inside pages, you find that it “was a busy time for the planning agency” and that Stanley and Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson “had not been able to get a definitive list . . . until this week about what was required.” Stanley admitted that “he is at fault because he did not retain receipts that showed who ate what at various restaurant meals. in most instances, he had receipts showing totals.”

So, bottom line: it’s August. News is slow. Nobody wants our public servants to mis-use credit cards, and really, anybody who has to do their own taxes knows that you need to write down who, what, where and why on meal receipts, particularly if you’re buying for things like the Zoning Advisory Panel (ZAP) meetings. But this story shows more about the adjustments required coming from other, less detail-oriented jurisdictions than the scandal suggested by the initial story lead. If you don’t want to deal with the requirements for documentation for the company card, you pay with your own, and seek reimbursement for the things you do have documentation for afterwards; that seems to be what’s happening here.

The Post article can be found at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/07/AR2009080702178.html

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall

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