Wednesday October 13, 2010

Maryland Pregnancy Center Foe Accused of Financial Mismanagement by NOW

Maryland Pro-Abort Councilmember Spent NOW Funds on Victoria’s Secret: Grievance Committee

By Kathleen Gilbert

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Maryland, October 13, 2010 ( – A pro-abortion Maryland councilmember and prominent foe of local crisis pregnancy centers is locked in a battle over allegations that she used over $10,000 of funds from the abortion organization National Organization for Women (NOW) for personal shopping sprees.

The scandal has now heated up, with the local Fraternal Order of Police and others demanding that a fiscal grievance launched against her by the local NOW chapter be independently investigated.

Montgomery County Councilmember Marie “Duchy” Trachtenberg, the official responsible for forcing local pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) to post disclaimers if there is no medical professional on staff, conceded defeat last month in her bid for re-election. But questions concerning allegedly mishandled funds belonging to Maryland NOW continue to haunt Trachtenberg, who served as the lobby group’s treasurer from about 2006 until the end of 2008.

Trachtenberg also once served as the affiliate’s president, and as NOW’s mid-Atlantic regional director; Terry O’Neill, the current president of NOW, once served as Trachtenberg’s chief of staff, according to the Montgomery County Gazette.

Although the matter had been public since at least January, on September 7, the week before Trachtenberg conceded, Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government (MCRG) released a November 2009 document. In the document, which purported to detail the issue as handled by NOW’s Grievance Committee, Trachtenberg is described as having funneled thousands of NOW’s dollars to herself and her husband, and using the lobby’s account to pay for shopping sprees at Victoria’s Secret, Lord & Taylor, Whole Foods Market, and other such locations.

Trachtenberg’s lawyer Joseph Sandler dismissed the controversy over the document as “a political stunt,” saying that the issue had been resolved.

Trachtenberg herself was responsible for the matter being publicized in January 2010, when her attorney, Bruce Bender, threatened to sue NOW if it did not dismiss the claims.

Beth Corbin, then-president of Maryland NOW, said at the time that the dispute was an “internal Maryland NOW matter that’s been dealt with” and has been “resolved,” but declined to comment further. Sandy Bell, action vice president for the Maryland chapter of NOW, told the Gazette in January that the organization “did not want this to be public.” NOW president O’Neill reportedly asked NOW members to stop discussing the issue with media.

When asked Wednesday about the document released by MCRG, Maryland NOW’s current president, Linda Mahoney, told that “any grievance would have been subject to NOW confidentiality guidelines, so anything any media person might have received would not be authoritative and cannot be relied upon.” Mahoney and former president Corbin did not respond as of late Wednesday afternoon when asked if they recognized the document, or if the grievance it detailed was in error. NOW’s national office did not return LSN’s request for verification of the authenticity of the document.

The document in question discloses, in its own words, “startling evidence” implicating Trachtenberg in her position at NOW.

The document states that the councilmember “regularly utilized Maryland NOW’s ATM card to make cash withdrawals,” and “wrote numerous checks to herself” and her husband totaling at least $11,498. Meanwhile, it states, Trachtenberg “has provided no expense reports or accounting documentation to Maryland NOW concerning these expenses.”

Despite “numerous promises, including in writing, that she would turn over” files detailing expenditure of NOW’s funds, states the document, Trachtenberg had failed even to attend a scheduled hearing on the issue since leaving the post. Trachtenberg is no longer a member of NOW.

On September 9, the Board of Directors of the county’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) asked several officials, including state, county, and federal attorneys, to investigate the “serious allegations” in the document. FOP spokesman Greg Kenefick told the Gazette that, because Trachtenberg is a public official and chairs the county’s Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, the public has a right to be made aware of financial misconduct.

LSN’s request to learn the investigation’s status from the office of Maryland Attorney General Doglas Gansler was not returned.

In its press release containing the grievance document, MCRG President Dr. Ruth Jacobs called on the councilmember to publicly retract the legal threat she issued against NOW in January, “confirm the outcome of this grievance,” and “produce all records concerning her actions as treasurer for NOW as the grievance allegedly demands.”

“As Trachtenberg herself has said, Montgomery County residents deserve transparency of their public officials,” said Jacobs.

An Alliance Defense Fund lawsuit against Trachtenberg’s law restricting pregnancy resource centers is ongoing.

Trachtenberg is also well known for pushing into law a “transgender rights” bill in 2007, but not before a deluge of calls and emails forced the councilmember to remove language that would have given “transgender” individuals the right to use the bathroom of their choice.

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