D.C. Council Rebukes Jim Graham

Well, the District Council went and did what Chairman Phil Mendelson said it was going to do. They reprimanded Councilman Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, over accusations that he attempted to intervene in a city lottery contract dispute four years ago. The vote was 11-2; Graham and Ward 8 Council- man Marion Barry were the lone nay votes.

Yet, it probably didn’t settle the issue, except to put a stain on Graham’s council record. Graham was also stripped of his power to oversee District liquor licenses and alcohol issues on the Human Services Committee, which he chairs. They did not strip him of his chairmanship.

The reprimand followed several investigations of Graham and the D.C. Lottery contract. The D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability concluded that they had found “substantial evidence” that Graham had broken the District’s code of employee conduct but did not sanction him, according to a Washington Post report. Another independent investigation by the Metro board, of which Graham was then a member, concluded that Graham had improperly mingled his Council and board duties. In addition, there’s an ongoing investigation of the lottery contract process by the U.S. attorney, not to mention numerous negative editorials in the Washington Post about Graham’s activities and roles.

Graham promised to fight the reprimand at the hearing but remained relatively silent, indicating that the is- sue was now closed.

“There’s the saying, ‘All’s well that ends well,’ ” he told WRC 4 reporter Tom Sherwood. “Well, all’s well that ends.” Graham sounded more than anything relieved and argued that the voters would have their say on him in the 2014 elections, when apparently he will run for his seat yet again.

Mendelson chose to have Graham reprimanded it seems from here because quite a bit of how Graham operates in his various roles give not so much the fact of wrong doing or ethical wrong doing, but the appearance of them. Often, Graham’s defense has been to claim loudly that has not been indicted or that he was not the target of an investigation, as in the taxi commission bribe scandal which involved his chief of staff.

Ward One voters have repeatedly voted Graham back into office. Newly elected At-large Councilman David Gross said he would not support him next time around.

It seems though that there was little substance behind a public reprimand or even taking away his committee duties. The act smacked a little bit of grandstanding on the Council’s part, designed to do nothing more except perhaps to give the appearance of a serious smackdown and the appearance that the Council is finally serious about ethical matters, given Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas, Jr., Mayor’s Gray’s campaign and other matters.

This is not to suggest that Graham is innocent of everything he’s been accused of, but rather that he should be proven guilty of something. In the very least, the Council might have ordered an investigation of its own—by a legal entity or attorney—as it did in the case of Marion Barry, who was censured after such an investigation of his role in a legal services contract in 2010. That hearing, conducted and ordered by then Council Chairman Vincent Gray had the gravitas it and Barry de- served. Not, apparently, going to happen. ★

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Fri, 24 Oct 2014 07:17:35 -0400

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