Friday, September 10, 2010

Police Call for Investigation of Duchy Trachtenberg (Updated)

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 has called on the Maryland Attorney General, the State’s Attorney of Montgomery County and the U.S. Attorney for Maryland to investigate Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg’s conduct as Treasurer of Maryland NOW. Following is their letter, as well as a few attachments.

September 9,2010

Douglas Gansler
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
200 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202

Dear Mr. Gansler:

The Board of Directors of Fraternal Order of Police, Montgomery County Lodge 35 has directed that I write to you requesting an investigation as explained below. In making this request, we want to be clear that we are not alleging that any crime has been committed by anyone in this matter.

Since December 4, 2006, Marie “Duchy” Trachtenberg has been an elected member of the Montgomery County Council. She is a public official who serves as chair of the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee of the Montgomery County Council and in that capacity heads the County Council's Audit Committee.

From sometime prior to December 2006 until December 15, 2008, Councilmember Trachtenberg served as treasurer of Maryland National Organization for Women [“NOW”]. Maryland NOW is an organization with an address in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland. We do not know if the matters, infra, involve more than one state or more than one political subdivision within Maryland.

Based upon information believed to be credible, reliable and accurate, the past president of Maryland NOW, in her capacity as president of Maryland NOW, made serious allegations against Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, former treasurer of Maryland NOW.

Those allegations are detailed in a document titled, “National Organization For Women Grievance Committee Decision” in the matter of Maryland NOW v. Duchy Trachtenberg, dated November 9,2009. Decision attached.

According to the decision, Councilmember Trachtenberg failed to turn over records that she maintained as a fiduciary. Further, it is alleged that “Ms. Trachtenberg regularly utilized Maryland NOW’s ATM card to make cash withdrawals [and] used the ATM card to make regular purchases at retail outlets including but not limited to Lord & Taylor, Victoria’s Secret, Filenes Basement, Target, Williams Sonoma, [theaters and food stores] and numerous dining establishments.”

The decision further states that “according to SunTrust Bank records, Ms. Trachtenberg wrote numerous checks to herself ... and numerous checks to her husband ...” No documentation or expense reports justifying these expenses were provided, according to the decision.

The decision concludes that “Maryland NOW is unable to determine whether the $19,345.26 Ms. Trachtenberg returned to Maryland NOW at the end of her term as Treasurer represents the full amount owed to the organization.” (According to the decision, only $494.73 of this sum was from the authorized NOW account at SunTrust, the remainder was in the form of a cashier's check "from Bank of America a bank at which Maryland NOW had no account.”)

We make no claim as to the accuracy of these allegations and must presume that Councilmember Trachtenberg is innocent of any wrongdoing or inappropriate conduct. We do, however, note that in a January 20, 2010 article which appeared in the Gazette newspapers, it is reported that Bruce Bender, “[a]n attorney representing Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg has asked the Maryland Chapter of the National Organization for Women to dismiss a claim that Trachtenberg mishandled money while serving as treasurer of the organization.” The article refers to “a Dec. 9 [2009] letter to Terry O’Neill, national president of NOW [from Mr. Bender who reportedly] called concerns raised about Trachtenberg’s bookkeeping ‘totally frivolous.’ He requests that NOW ‘dismiss the grievance’ and that NOW members stop discussing the matter with the media.”

We expect that our motives will be questioned. but suggest that we had no part in the allegations against Councilmember Trachtenberg, the grievance against her, or the Grievance Committee Decision. Furthermore, we had no part in the January 20, 2010 Gazette article; the September 1, 2010 article on Maryland Politics Watch, or the May 2009 proposed amendments to Maryland NOW’s bylaws which track the matters addressed in the grievance decision. See attached.

This is not an issue of our making. The focus ought to be on the conduct of Councilmember Trachtenberg, not on messengers.

Indeed, on her County Council web page, Councilmember Trachtenberg says, “As MFP Chair, [her] primary mission is the stewardship of the County's fiscal health. [Councilmember Trachtenberg] guides the yearly budget-making process to ensure the protection of the County’s long-term stability while funding essential priorities and protecting the vulnerable, with transparency, equity and fiscal responsibility.”

In fairness, we take note of praise of Councilmember Trachtenberg by NOW president Terry O’Neill, a former aide to Councilmember Trachtenberg. See attached.

In all good conscience, we consider these allegations to be serious and call upon you and your office to fairly, impartially, and objectively investigate this matter and to take such action as is appropriate.

“As MFP Chair, Councilmember Trachtenberg’s primary mission is the stewardship of the County's fiscal health.” d/about.asp

We believe that this request of independent prosecutors for such investigations is not only appropriate but fully consistent with Councilmember's own stated priorities of “transparency, equity and fiscal responsibility.” Id.

Similar requests are being made to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney and the United States Attorney.


Denise Gill Acting Secretary

John McCarthy
State’s Attorney
Montgomery County, Maryland
Judicial Center, 5th floor
50 Maryland Ave.
Rockville, MD 20850

Rod J. Rosenstein
United States Attorney
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland
36 S. Charles Street 4th Fl.
Baltimore, Md. 21201

Here is a copy of the letter on letterhead.

Here is a copy of the NOW grievance decision referenced in the letter.

Here is a copy of the recommended Maryland NOW bylaws changes that were considered after Trachtenberg left as their Treasurer.

The Gazette article can be found here and the MPW post referenced in the letter can be found here.

Update: The Gazette also has this story.