Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Duchy Reverses Position on Union Support

Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg has notified Montgomery County’s public employee unions that she will not be asking for their endorsements in this year’s elections, saying that would be “a conflict of interest” given her decision-making responsibilities on the budget. This is a significant reversal given her long record of accepting public sector union endorsements and contributions in the past.

Trachtenberg sent the following email to multiple county employee unions on Monday.

From: Duchy Trachtenberg []
Date: Mon, 31 May 2010 [Time Withheld]
To: [Emails Withheld]
Subject: Hard Copy Mailed Thursday/Friday

Thursday, May 27th

Dear [Union Leader]:

Montgomery County is weathering a financial storm, as are many other local jurisdictions across the country. This has been a challenge for all local governments and the many public employees we depend on each and every day. Here in Montgomery County we are mindful of the extraordinary contributions of our public employees. I am truly appreciative of [the union]’s willingness to participate in this year’s budget compromise and trust that this working partnership will continue into the future as we face unprecedented fiscal challenges.

I am not seeking a [union] endorsement during this year’s election cycle (I had notified MCEA of this last Tuesday). As the Chair of the Council’s Management and Fiscal Policy (MFP) Committee, I play a central role in defining Council fiscal policy, including recommendations on compensation and benefits for our public employees. I believe it would be a conflict of interest for me to pursue endorsements from those whose compensation and benefits we ultimately approve and/or fund. As the MFP Chair, I have a primary fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and the financial interests of the county. There is a clear conflict between the financial interests of county government and the unions who negotiate for the employees. It would be inappropriate to signal any additional consideration or favorable intentions to any specific group of public employees, especially given our current financial climate. For me, this fiduciary responsibility and potential conflict of interests must outweigh any mere political considerations.

However, while I may not be able to seek an endorsement in good conscience from your membership, I would like the opportunity to speak with your membership. I believe a frank and constructive conversation with you on our current fiscal situation would be very helpful. Additionally, I would like the opportunity to discuss the rating agency process and the steps that are necessary for prudent, public debt management.

I thank you again for your thoughtful consideration of this brief letter and very much look forward to working with [the union] in the years ahead. I know we all agree that our main objective is to continue to provide quality county services despite our current fiscal challenges.


Duchy Trachtenberg
This is a new position for Trachtenberg. She has taken six contributions from county employee unions in the past:

MCGEO: $1,000 on 7/25/06
MCGEO: $4,000 on 12/18/06
MoCo Career Fire Fighters: $4,000 on 7/11/06
MoCo Career Fire Fighters: $2,000 on 7/21/06
Police Lodge 35 PAC: $500 on 10/20/06
SEIU Local 500 PAC: $500 on 7/12/06

Total: $12,000

Here is her endorsement page from 2006. See the logos of MCEA, the Fire Fighters, SEIU, the AFL-CIO, Progressive Maryland and MCGEO? Trachtenberg’s presence on the Apple Ballot was one of the biggest reasons she was elected.

Trachtenberg’s campaign account even contributed $6,000 to MCEA’s PAC on 6/4/07, the maximum amount permitted by law. This practice has been harshly condemned by the Post. And Trachtenberg’s payment to MCEA occurred after she had joined the council and assumed the Chair of its Management and Fiscal Policy Committee. If this sort of activity is a “conflict of interest” now, why wasn’t it a conflict then?

The truth is that Trachtenberg’s long record of voting against county employees after being elected with their support guaranteed that she would not earn any of their endorsements this year. And so she is trying to ingratiate herself with the one remaining influential endorsing organization that might back her – the union-bashing Washington Post – which has insisted that politicians reject public employee union contributions. But Trachtenberg crossed that bridge a long time ago.

Is there any chance the voters will see this for what it is?