On Friday evening, June 10, I joined other Rockville residents in Town Center to hear Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio announce her decision to seek reelection. Among those in attendance were Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz, Sen. Jennie Forehand, and former Rockville Mayor Steve VanGrack.
Seats were set up in the pavilion area in front of the stage. Many senior citizens took advantage of the seating while other people stood or sat near the sides of the stage. After several short speeches, Mayor Marcuccio began her remarks. Several minutes into the speech, the mayor and all those who turned out to hear her speak became victims of the one of the most bizarre and arrogant abuses of authority I have experienced.
Dozens of people were sitting in chairs placed on and around the Town Square fountain. Suddenly, without warning, the fountain was turned on. People were getting soaked and began scrambling to get out of the way of the water. Imagine what it must have felt like for the mayor to try to continue her speech and keep her composure, while the fountain is spewing water and kids are running into the water screaming and yelling. She finally had to abandon the speech. The remaining speakers made attempts to give their statements, but by then it was futile and the program came to an abrupt end.
The blame for this outrageous act, this insult to an elected official of this city and to the people who were there, rests in the hands of city manager Scott Ullery. It also presented a serious safety hazard, as water from the fountain moved perilously close to electrical wires.
I later discovered that the mayor had a permit, issued by the city, to use the stage from 6 to 8 p.m. She had made arrangements with Burt Hall, director of recreation and parks, to have the fountain in front of the pavilion turned off from 6 to 8 p.m. Unfortunately, Mr. Ullery took it upon himself to override Mr. Hall's authority, and arranged to have the fountain turned off at about 6:40 p.m. and back on at 7:30 p.m.
It is common for the fountain to be shut off for community events, and a schedule on the city's Web site shows that for June 10, the fountain was scheduled to be off between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m.
I now ask that City Manager Ullery make a public apology to the mayor, to the officials that were there to speak on her behalf and to the citizens of this city that went to a public event, expecting to hear an announcement from their mayor but instead were humiliated and treated with no regard for their safety and well-being. Mr. Ullery, it is the least you can do.
The author served as Phyllis Marcuccio's campaign manager in 2009. He is not serving in that capacity this year.