- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Montgomery County Planning Board yesterday assigned their new deputy director of park and planning to oversee the agency’s response to widespread building violations in Clarksburg.

Bill Mooney, 54, a county police officer for 20 years and then the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, was named acting deputy director by Planning Board Chairman Derick Berlage and Park and Planning Director Charles R. Loehr.

Mr. Mooney will oversee the Clarksburg Town Center, a multimillion-dollar development that has stalled because of a scandal over building violations.

An agency report said a Park and Planning staffer covered up the violations.

Mr. Mooney said he will focus on supporting staff “as we unravel and then figure out where we go from there.”

He also plans to draw on his experience as an intermediary between county government and residents. “I’ll probably reach into my experience I’ve had and go out and listen to a lot of people and look for opportunities for what we can do better, how we should change what we do,” Mr. Mooney said.

In 1994, Mr. Mooney was the county executive’s liaison to Rockville residents upset about a dump fire that burned for seven weeks.

In 2003, Mr. Mooney came to Park and Planning as chief of enterprise and for two years oversaw county golf courses, an ice rink and several public-private partnerships. He replaces Don Cochran, who retired this month.

The Town Center, a 1,300-home development, is one of several projects changing the rural landscape of the north side of the county.

About 800 homes have been built, but construction has been halted until at least October.

A Park and Planning staff report issued in July found that 535 homes were too tall or too close to the street.

The report also revealed that the Park and Planning staffer responsible for overseeing Town Center, Wynn Witthans, altered site plan data tables to cover up the violations.

Mrs. Witthans worked for Park and Planning from 1983 to 1988, and again after 1993. She resigned in May. She has not returned phone calls, but reportedly has hired legal counsel.

The Montgomery County inspector general and a Maryland special prosecutor are investigating the matter. The County Council’s Office of Legislative Affairs also is preparing a report on Town Center.

Meanwhile, homeowners and citizens associations have reported other building violations across the county.

County Council members have said they will pursue all reports of building violations or Park and Planning oversights when they resume work in September.

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