The Montgomery County, Md., Ethics Commission — which is headed by a D.C. government attorney working in an unofficial, volunteer capacity — violated the county’s human rights law by waging a “blatant political attack” against a transgender woman based solely on her gender identity, according to a discrimination complaint filed last week.
The complaint was filed with the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission by transgender activist Dana Beyer, who works as a senior aide to Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At-Large). Beyer plans to run for the Maryland House of Delegates next year.
Beyer said she filed the complaint Nov. 17 after the Ethics Commission found “reasonable cause” that she abused her position as a County Council employee by allegedly “intimidating,” “threatening” or “coercing” members of a group opposed to a county non-discrimination law protecting transgender people.
Members of the group filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission accusing Beyer of intimidating them in an effort to stop them from gathering petition signatures at a Giant supermarket in 2007 for a referendum to overturn the transgender non-discrimination law. The referendum died after its supporters failed to obtain the required number of valid signatures.
At a Nov. 17 news conference in Rockville, Beyer called the accusations against her baseless. She said the commission took statements only from her accusers and failed to interview several eyewitnesses who dispute claims that she acted improperly to stop the signature gathering.
She also noted that the commission may have acted illegally by arranging for a county attorney to search her computer without her or Trachtenberg’s knowledge to determine whether she was using office equipment to campaign against the proposed referendum.
“If the Ethics Commission acted responsibly, and frankly, ethically, we would not be here today,” Beyer said at the news conference. “Instead, politics and bigotry dictated their actions and corrupted an institution dedicated to fighting public corruption.”
According to Beyer and Trachtenberg, the Ethics Commission has never before investigated or brought charges against a County Council employee for engaging in political activity during their off-duty time.
Antar C. Johnson, chair of the five-member Ethics Commission and a Silver Spring resident, serves as Assistant General Counsel in the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer. When contacted Monday by the D.C. Agenda, Johnson said he could not comment on a pending case before the commission.
He said his involvement with the commission is based on his role as a volunteer commissioner appointed by former Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan and is unrelated to his full-time job as a D.C. government attorney.