Kelly Makes County Manager’s Resignation a Campaign Issue

by ARLnow.com October 12, 2010 at 11:08 am 2,140 10 Comments

Republican Mark Kelly is hoping that the handling of county manager Michael Brown’s forced resignation will convince voters that more “diversity of opinion” is needed on the county board.

Last night, in an otherwise dry debate at the Lyon Village Civic Association’s general meeting, Kelly made the Brown issue central to his case against incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman.

“I want to give you one example that happened recently that I think points to the problem when one party controls every seat,” Kelly told the crowd. While saying that sometimes it’s necessary to fire people who aren’t working out, Kelly criticized the way in which board chairman Jay Fisette finally acknowledged that Brown did not simply resign for personal reasons.

“It took them a while to respond, and when they finally came clean about it, it was at the Arlington County Democratic [Committee] monthly meeting,” Kelly said. “I don’t think an announcement like that… should have been done at a partisan political meeting; I think that should have been done through official channels” like a press release or a press conference.

Zimmerman did not address the county manager issue during the debate, but he did respond to a reporter’s question afterward.

“I think that was the first opportunity [Jay Fisette] got” to talk about the county manager issue in a public forum, Zimmerman said. “It’s not like this is the White House, we just don’t go down to the press room and demand attention for a press conference.”

“I think the board did what it had to do,” Zimmerman continued. “We’re very fortunate we had [former interim county manager Barbara Donnellan] available to us… we didn’t have to do another search process.”

During the forum, Zimmerman touted the board’s accomplishments in promoting smart growth, fiscal responsibility and relatively low residential taxes.

He said that thanks to the board’s guidance, Arlington is a walkable and environmentally sustainable community that promotes “sensible development” and diversity through affordable housing.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do,” Zimmerman said.

Kelly said he would push an initiative to release details about the county’s spending online — even promising to take a pay cut to help pay for it. The said that an audit of the spending is necessary, given that the county budget grew at nearly three times the rate of inflation from 2000 to 2009

Kelly also assailed the Columbia Pike streetcar project, which he said would come with a price tag that amounts to nearly $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Arlington.

Green Party candidate Kevin Chisholm also participated in Monday night’s forum. Chisholm said the county “could definitely tighten its belt in area,” while questioning the “cozy” relationship between the board and county employees.”

“Friendly is good, but sometimes you need to have an arm’s length with employees,” he said. “I don’t think the board right now makes difficult decisions well.”

Chisholm said his primary focus is energy policy, fairness and the “wise use of resources.”

  • NorthAdams

    Good points about our Chairman making this announcement at a democratic party function. i guess that means it is the defacto place stuff gets announced.
    okay could you have picked a worse picture of Zimmie. He looks bored and bored.

  • April Fools in October

    What planet is this guy on? “fiscal responsibility and relatively low residential taxes”.

    I think the County Board needs competing voices just to keep them from delusional thoughts like the quote from above. Kelly is quoted in the same article “the county budget grew at nearly three times the rate of inflation from 2000 to 2009”.

    When I see meter maids driving around in $50,000 trucks to write parking tickets how can I trust that the County Board and County Employees are taking their fiduciary responsibility seriously.

    • TGEoA


      Or in Zimmies case it’s +10%. Which is the amount our property taxes have gone up for the past 2 years.

  • Jack

    having a voice of reason, fiscal responsibility, and good-governance on the board would be a nice touch. we just need someone to keep the board honest and on their toes… kelly’s got my vote.

  • Novanglus

    > Chisholm…while questioning the “cozy” relationship between the board and
    > county employees.” “Friendly is good, but sometimes you need to have an arm’s
    > length with employees,” he said.

    The board and staff ARE at arm’s length, the relationship isn’t cozy at all. If the CB-form petition drive (supported by Chisolm’s party) had succeeded, it would have completely removed that arm’s length separation.

    • MC

      I would like to learn more about your reasoning for why the petition would reduce the arms-length relationship. I don’t discount the possibility, but I also don’t make the logical connection, either. Seems that a one-party stranglehold on government promotes an ideological “groupthink” conformity toward policy, which I doubt individual government employees feel much power to challenge. I don’t know what whistleblower protections exist for Arlington County employees.

      Was the prior Manager fired because he disagreed with the Board, because he refused to do something the Board asked him, or because he threatened to expose information the Board did not want made public? If his performance was an issue, why not publicly fire him and not pay the severance pay. Somehow the Manager was told to resign, and got severance pay as compensation. If it was voluntary, I understand he was not entitled to severance pay. If he was incompetent, when I assume he wouldn’t be entitled to severance pay either (it’s a bad contract if incompetency is rewarded with a golden parachute.) This lame “didn’t fit” explanation needs more sunlight. Maybe ArlNOW can contact the former Manager and get his side of the story.

      • Thes

        The petition would have changed Arlington from the “County Manager Plan” to the “County Board Form” of government. Our current form prohibits the County Board from hiring or firing any employee except the Manager (and Clerk and County Attorney). The proposed form would have given the County Board hiring and firing authority over all employees. Essentially it would have made every employee a political appointment.

      • 4Arl

        One of the rules in the current system is that county employees are not permitted to communicate with county board members except through the county manager’s office. With the layoffs and other cutbacks/changes in the past few years, the civil service protections are not really there anymore, though I think except for Ms. Hynes, none of the board members seem to really care to listen to any whistleblowers anyway.

  • tuesdayschild

    I would like to opt-out of Mr. Zimmerman.

    • Chris



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