This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 7, 2022, to include more information. It was updated at 6 p.m. Oct. 7, 2022, to include comments from Partap Verma. It was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include more background information. It was updated at 8:05 p.m. with comment from a deputy director within the county parks department.

The Montgomery County Planning Board fired Planning Director Gwen Wright on Friday, three months before she was set to retire.

“I’m very sorry to end a long career on a very sour note, I worry about the agency,” Wright told Bethesda Beat after confirming that she was fired. “I worry about my staff … but it is what it is.”

According to a news release, the Planning Board has appointed Tanya Stern as acting director. Stern was deputy director under Wright since August 2018.

“We thank and appreciate Gwen Wright’s many years of service to [the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission] and Montgomery Planning and the legacy of excellence in planning and urban design by Montgomery Planning during that time,” Stern said in the release. “During this time of transition, I will be working very closely with senior leadership to help ensure Montgomery Planning can continue to focus on its excellent work that is highly respected in this region and across the country.”

Wright had served as director of the county’s Planning Department since 2013, and had been with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission — a commission that serves both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — from 1987 to 2008, according to her LinkedIn page. She also served in Alexandria’s Planning Department from 2008 to 2013.


The termination is the latest in a series of controversies that have rocked the board and Planning Department recently.

Wright said the Planning Board moved to fire her by a vote of 4-0 in a closed session Friday. Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson was absent, she said.

The other commissioners were Vice Chair Partap Verma, Carol Rubin, Tina Patterson and Gerald R. Cichy.


“All I can tell you is that I was fired without cause, which means there was no explanation of any misconduct, there was no example of dishonesty, any fraud, [or] that I somehow committed a crime,” Wright added. “So I was dismissed without cause … which was good for me because I get severance, but it definitely does beg the question of why exactly was I dismissed?”

Two planning sources told Bethesda Beat before Wright was fired Friday that the Planning Board was meeting in closed session to consider Wright’s employment status.

Both sources — speaking anonymously to freely discuss recent circumstances at the county’s Planning Board and Planning Department — said before the vote to fire Wright that Verma, the county’s vice chair of the Planning Board, was leading efforts to oust Wright. They said he and other planning board officials were upset that Wright talked to a WJLA reporter about an email sent by someone else that was leaked to the TV station, in which there was a claim that Anderson was, in part, responsible for “toxic misogynistic and hostile workplace.” 


“This is a naked attempt to punish Gwen for standing up for Casey and to intimidate everyone here to prevent them from doing the same,” one source texted after the vote.

Verma declined to comment on the closed session, except for the following statement: “It is unfortunate that many individuals and sources are engaging in misinformation regarding this issue. This is a personnel issue, and because it’s an active investigation, I cannot comment on anything further.”

Rubin declined to comment, citing the Planning Board’s closed session.


The other source said before the vote that the board’s decision may be related to a letter that Wright and more than 10 other senior planning officials sent to the County Council, backing Anderson as a good boss. 

Miti Figueredo, a deputy director within the county’s Parks Department, wrote in an email she was “stunned” by the board’s decision.

“Gwen Wright is one of the most universally respected public servants in the entire DC region, and won an award just last week for her long and distinguished career in planning,” Figueredo wrote. “But less than 24 hours after she spoke the truth and said the allegations against Casey were false, she’s fired. It’s been clear for a while that Commissioners Verma and Rubin have been trying to push Casey out, but this is absolutely shocking and it sends a message to the rest of us that we will face retaliation for speaking out about what’s happening.”


“I think they were already a little bit upset with Gwen a little bit before [the leaked email],” a source said about the decision to fire Wright. “She wrote a letter to the council sticking up for Casey [Anderson], I think they were already upset about that, and this is all coming to a head.”

The county’s Planning Board and Department has been in the public spotlight for several weeks. First, a leaked report from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that Anderson had a full bar in his office, and sometimes shared drinks with colleagues during non-business hours, which was against county rules.

After a County Council investigation, Anderson was fined a month of his salary, and Verma and Rubin were each fined a day’s pay. 


On Thursday, WJLA first reported that, according to a confidential email, Anderson had contributed to a “toxic misogynistic and hostile workplace” because of comments he had made to workers. County officials are currently investigating those claims, which Anderson strongly denied on Friday.

“The director of the department is threatened with a firing, in something where she discussed her First Amendment rights,” one source said before the board fired Wright. “That has a chilling effect on all ranks and file.”

The other planning official who spoke with Bethesda Beat before the firing said the Planning Board was speaking broadly about discipline for Wright, not just her termination.


Senior officials such as Wright have protections in place that mean their termination must only be considered under extraordinary circumstances, the source said.

Wright was set to retire at the end of the year, planning officials announced on Friday. She received an award last month from the American Planning Association National Capital Area Chapter for her leadership of the Planning Department, including for shepherding the development of Thrive Montgomery 2050, the county’s proposed update to its general master plan.