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Fosselman Responds to Critics

The mayor and his supporters defended his actions in the sector plan process.

The controversy over Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman's property holdings came to a head at Monday's Town Council meeting, as critics questioned his ethics and town residents came to his defense.

Fosselman co-owns three Kensington properties with his domestic partner, Duane Rollins, a fact highlighted in a recent Washington Post article.

The mayor has long been an advocate for the town's proposed sector plan, and Kensington resident Ken Timmerman said at Monday's meeting that Fosselman's personal stake in town properties is a conflict of interest.

"This is the kind of thing that happens in third-world countries," he said. "I've been to banana republics, Pete, and I've seen it before."

Fosselman said he purchased his holdings in Kensington in 2009, after the Town Council's vote on the sector plan, and that he looked to the town's ethics committee for advice on how to proceed as mayor.

The committee, in a letter Fosselman provided to Patch (posted above), ruled that he could continue to participate in discussions of the sector plan as a whole but should abstain from talks about specific zoning. Fosselman said he has obeyed the ruling all along, and that he has no vote on any town issues anyhow.

John Huber, who lives in Chevy Chase View, said that's not good enough. The mayor should not have even been in the room for discussions related to the plan, Huber said, and the Post article was an embarrassment for everyone who lives in the Kensington area.

But many town residents at the meeting came to the mayor's defense.

Sean Neary, who lives in Kensington, said he was embarrased by the article, too, but for the opposite reason. Fosselman has worked hard to improve the town, he said, and the rancorous tone of the sector plan debate has been counterproductive.

"I want to applaud the mayor and council for putting up with this B.S., for lack of a better word," he said. "I wouldn't be able to do it."

Darin Bartram, who also lives in the town, said Fosselman followed all of the rules throughout the sector plan debate, and that 11th-hour criticisms do little to help the town.

"We have an ethics code," he said. "You went through that, got a result, and you complied with it."

Town Councilmember Mackie Barch said everyone who owns property in Kensington, whether residential or commercial, stands to benefit from redevelopment, and that Fosselman has done nothing wrong.

Not everyone on the Town Council agrees, however.

Councilmember Lydia Sullivan, who missed the meeting to deal with a personal issue, said in an interview with Patch that Fosselman has not been forthcoming with his personal stake in redevelopment. Most people in town first found out about the mayor's properties from the Post article, she said.

"I find it problematic that the chief spokesman for the plan is also one its chief beneficiaries," Sullivan said.

The proposed plan is currently making its way through the County Council, with the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee last week. The full council is expected to vote on it by early March.

MocoLoco February 14, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Awe, jeez. It turns out Mr. Timmerman was just populating his campaign website with material. http://www.timmermanforcongress.com/posts/all-politics-is-local-conflict-of-interest-in-kensington I was tempted to think he was a raging lunatic last night. It turns out he had a cunning purpose.
copywolf February 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM
There are a number of questions as yet unanswered here. One is that there are apparently no records of Mayor Fosselman or his partner having paid for his stake in these properties either with cash or by taking out the loan. If that is, in fact, the case, then why was the Mayor given this interest. Who are Nicholas and Yi Santelli (the Mayor's partners)? Has the town Ethics Committee which is appointed by (surprise!) the Mayor taken it upon themselves to investigate any of this? And while we're at it, since we know that Konterra has a history of making illegal contributions to politicians, what, if anything has changed hands between them, Mayor Fosselman and Councilmembers Barch and Thompson? There are still a lot of rocks to be turned over and everything under them stinks.
kathy February 15, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Sounds like copywolf raises some interesting questions. Hope all are getting properly represented, mostly the opinions of the residents of Kensington . I sure don,t want to see a big metropolis built in known!
kathy February 15, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Ktown(Kensington)
Sabina Emerson February 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Excuse me, Steve/copywolf, I'm no fan of Konterra, but how do you know they make illegal contributions to politicians? Why would you post such wild speculation linking your neighbors to such activity? Perhaps you would benefit more from dealing with facts instead of slanderous attacks.
Darin Bartram February 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Steve, if you are going to accuse Fosselman, Barch, or Thomson of taking money from Konterra, why don't you do it by presenting evidence to the appropriate government investigators, rather than making anonymous assertions on the internet?
copywolf February 15, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Sabina, this isn't a slanderous attack as far as Konterra is concerned. Their illegal contributions were revealed as part of an investigation done by County Councilman Phil Andrews. Here's just part of a press release of his from 2005: " Andrews Denounces “Culture of Corruption” in Pro-ICC Developer Contributions to Ehrlich and Steele Exploiting a gaping loophole in Maryland’s campaign finance law, pro-ICC Konterra developer Kingdon Gould, family members, and entities controlled by them have given more than $129,000 in political contributions to Maryland state and local politicians and party committees since 1999, according to a study released yesterday by Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews." As you may know, Andrews is the former president of Common Cause in Maryland so I would give his investigation credence. And just for the record, I'm not Steve.
copywolf February 15, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Here's a link to the story in the Post: http://archive.martinomalley.com/news/1011/highway-backer-a-steady-ehrlich-donor
Darin Bartram February 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
The article that you pointed to never accuses Konterra of illegal contributions. Rather, it says that various donors have used a loophole in the campaign finance laws to direct significant money to both Democrats and Republicans. Based on my reading, you are the first and only person to accuse Konterra of illegal activity. I wouldn't want to be in that situation. It is rather easy to find out who lurks behind User IDs on internet sites.
copywolf February 15, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Mr. Bartram: 1. Please read Phil Andrews' press release before you say that there was no illegal/immoral activity. Doesn't the word "corruption" mean anything to you? Why would you want that in Kensington? They may not have crossed the line of legality but they certainly crossed the moral line by exploiting a loophole to do things that the law attempted to prevent, i.e. undue influence. 2. Why doesn't our Revitalization Committee know about these things? 3. Please don't threaten me, it's unseemly. And frankly, it's the attack dog behavior of you and your associates that causes me to prefer to be anonymous - at least for now - as is my right. Here is the full text of the Andrews Press Release. If this sounds okay to you and it's what you want for Kensington, we live in very different worlds: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/archive/pr/2005/0301pa-icc.pdf. And here's another excerpt: "On one day — October 17, 2002 — Konterra interests contributed $20,000 to Steele, five times the state limit on what any individual, partnership or corporation may contribute in a four- year election cycle to any one candidate (an individual, partnership or corporation also may not contribute more than $10,000 to all candidates combined in a four-year election cycle)."
Darin Bartram February 15, 2012 at 04:12 PM
No one (certainly not me!) is advocating in support of either illegal or immoral behavior, but the law very much distinguishes between the two. And, I'm not threatening you. More like providing caution against making reckless accusations. (You don't have a right to remain anonymous, by the way. If the Patch or the Gazette decide to out you in response to a court order, that's going to happen. Again, not a threat, just a suggestion that you may be placing unreasonable reliance on anonymity.)
Dennis McCurdy February 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM
These postings are truly shameless. I am the manager and partner in the properties on Armory and Howard Avenues in which the Mayor and his partner are invested. I am not a developer. The only thing I remember developing is a rash and that went away. Pete and Duane have committed to properties that have never been touted for development. They are minority and silent investors who believe in Kensington. Their interest has been paid for in cash (theirs) and pledges of personal assets to their lenders. Their liability is joint and several; there are neither gifts nor favors. The properties are owned by two different joint ventures which is merely a method of ownership that limits exposure to only the property involved. We are tearing our community apart with this divisive dialogue. Personally, I know of nobody on either side who isn't committed to a better future Kensington. We can build on that, let's give it a try.
copywolf February 15, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Mr. McCurdy I agree with you. And the best thing Mayor Fosselman can do is make all of his finances public so that there are no questions about where his loyalties lie. And I also agree that we all want a better Kensington though we don't always agree how to get there. I am all for civil dialogue but it's hard to stick to it when people like Lydia Sullivan are publicly torn apart. It's also hard to be moderate when we have people like Caleb Gould somehow convincing the Town to go against the recommendation of the Planning Board and to go against the statements regarding height made by Mayor Fosselman himself. Mr. Bartram, two more things: 1. How is making contributions that are five times the legal limit and shielding it through shell corporations not illegal? 2. Court order? Seriously? Give me a hit on that before you put it out, okay?
Richard Rice February 15, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Dennis, I completely agree with your statement. The last thing we need in this town is more backbiting and slander. United for the town we thrive; divided we fail and we fall as community!
Judy Higgins February 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Mr. Bartram, I have been reading your comments for months now and find them highly offensive and mean spirited. I cannot understand why you are so threatened by opinions that differ from yours? To disagree is one thing but to threaten people is another. In the spirit of our first amendment rights, all people have the right to voice their opinion and further, I question who made you the arbitrator of what is right or wrong when referencing someone else's opinion? I request you try and be civil. Thank you.
Darin Bartram February 15, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Judy--I think you are misreading what I'm saying. I am not threatening anyone. I thought I was being helpful by cautioning people to not have a false belief that they are truly anonymous on the web. The news is replete with stories of offended readers taking to the courts to find out the identity of someone who spreads false information. Here's a recent example: http://abovethelaw.com/2011/07/thomas-cooley-sues-a-law-firm-and-four-john-doe-people-on-the-internet-for-defamation/
Jeremy Button February 15, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I truly believe all the Kensington conspiracy theorists need to switch to decaf. Stop and think about all the insinuations you are making about mayor Pete and what would need to be true for them to have any validity whatsoever. Mayor Pete wants to secretly destroy the town to make a few bucks on his commercial properties on to lose it on the residential home he owns?? I mean come on people I trust facts and experts...not speculation and innuendo. Anyone with me here?
Kensington Resident February 16, 2012 at 01:03 AM
I too would rather the Patch report on the issues at hand. Time is running out to build more protections into the Sector Plan. Had the Plan been approved last spring as some say should have happened; had folks like Councilmember Sullivan not stood their ground and continued to work with the Planners to incorporate reasoned, protective language into the Plan, you folks who live or have family living at the edge TOK properties would not have the reduced ‘step down’ density that is now included in the revised draft Sector Plan. The Patch should have reported on the Kensington Sector Plan issues that were raised during the meeting instead of feeding the propaganda machine with this article. The heights and densities of the Plan continue to be called into question.
Steven Cohen February 16, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Thank you Copywolf ...I AM STEVE ! You will know that because at the end of each post it will say "Steve" . Now, if you guys start attacking me, I may have to change my name to Michelle. I'm going to sleep. Steve Cohen
Doctor RosenRosen February 16, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Why can't we all just get along.

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