February 21, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Graham faces reprimand by D.C. Council
Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) (Washington Blade photo by Jeff Surprenant)

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for the Council to reprimand gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) on grounds that he violated a Council ethics rule in 2008 over dealings with a Metro and lottery contract.

Mendelson scheduled a special Council meeting for Monday, Feb. 25, to discuss and vote on his nine-page reprimand resolution.

In a separate action, Mendelson said he plans to remove from Graham’s Council committee assignment responsibilities for overseeing the city’s alcoholic beverage regulatory agencies.

Meanwhile, Graham’s attorneys on Thursday morning filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court challenging the legal authority of the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to issue a finding last month alleging that Graham violated the city’s code of conduct over the contract matter.

Mendelson’s resolution seeking a Council reprimand is based, in part, on the findings of the ethics board that Graham breached city ethics rules.

In addition to the lawsuit, Graham’s attorneys filed separate motions asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction ordering the ethics board to withdraw its ruling on Graham until its legality is determined by the court.

Mendelson’s resolution cites findings by three separate entities, including the Board of Ethics and Government Responsibility, that Graham breached the city’s code of conduct by allegedly attempting to pressure a businessman into withdrawing a bid for a Metro development contract in exchange for Graham’s support for the businessman receiving a D.C. lottery contract.

Graham has denied he interfered with the contract approval process. He has said he made it clear he favored another company for the Metro contract but said his preference was based on sound evidence the company he favored was better qualified to carry out the contract.

“Councilmember Graham’s actions constitute a clear violation of Council Rule 202(a), which requires that, as a Councilmember, he ‘maintain a high level of ethical conduct’ and ‘refrain from taking, ordering, or participating in any official action that would adversely affect the confidence of the public on the integrity of the District government,” Mendelson’s proposed resolution says.

“To maintain the confidence of the public in the integrity of the legislative branch of government, the Council expresses disapproval of the conduct of Councilmember Jim Graham as detailed in this resolution, and hereby reprimands Councilmember Jim Graham for affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of government in violation of D.C. Official Code…”

Graham’s office released a statement from one of his attorneys saying the lawsuit filed on Thursday asserts that the ethics board issued its ruling against Graham without legal authority.

The board “had no basis to issue the findings and pronounce judgment against our client without granting him a chance to be heard, allowing him to review and challenge the evidence to which we were denied access, and conducting a full adversary hearing,” attorney Caroline Mehta said in the statement.

“The Board violated the law and its own rules,” she said. “This is not the ethics process that the Council sought to put into place, nor is it one whose decisions are worthy of respect or weight.”

She added, “Today we filed for relief and are confident that the court will agree that the Board acted lawlessly and denied Councilmember Graham basic fairness and due process.”

In its 38-year history, the D.C. Council has handed down a reprimand to just one Council member – Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), the city’s former mayor. In 2010, an internal Council investigation found that Barry improperly awarded contracts from his office based on favoritism rather than merit.

Council observers said the court doesn’t have authority to prevent the Council from reprimanding Graham, regardless of how it rules on whether the ethics board acted legally in its ruling against Graham.

 

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

2 Comments
  • ““To maintain the confidence of the public in the integrity of the legislative branch of government…”
    ********************
    Would someone please pass Phil Mendelson a hand mirror?

    We just learned this week that– OVER 2 YEARS AGO– Phil Mendelson all but ignored warnings from DC’s police union that MPD was understating rape and sexual assault cases to make their crime statistics look better for MPD’s top brass. Now that’s pretty much what Human Rights Watch just reported last month.

    (for reference, Google: “YouTube DC Police Fail Rape Victims” –and–
    “Cops union: Mendelson ignored sex assaults allegations”)

    Once again, Mendelson put on a dog and pony show to shield Lanier’s MPD from any serious investigation of sex crimes coverups. Sounds kinda familiar to Mendelson’s feckless handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes coverups by MPD… for years, eh?

    Watch the videos, then read the HRW Report, “DC Police Mishandle Sexual Assault Cases”.

    Heck, if you’re pressed for time, just sample and skim the Blade’s reports re. hate crimes over the past year…

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/01/04/d-c-murders-down-anti-lgbt-hate-crimes-up/

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2011/07/07/police-chief-defends-fight-against-anti-lgbt-hate-crimes/

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/03/14/3-hospitalized-after-spate-of-anti-lgbt-violence/

    Why shouldn’t Council reprimand the previous Chairman of the Public Safety/ Judiciary Committee (for 8 years) for failing to help so many women victims of rape and sex assaults — as well as LGBT victims of hate crimes?

    What do you want to bet that if Mendelson had conducted a full-fledged investigation of both rape/sex assault -AND- hate crimes coverups by MPD to improve their crime stats –TWO YEARS AGO, as was his J.O.B.– the suffering and MPD abuse of women like those in HRW’s video (and likely, some LGBT hate crimes victims, too) would have been avoided, or at least reduced?

    The very FIRST responsibility of any mayor and council is to protect their citizens from violent crimes and to maintain public safety. All other functions of local government depend on that most basic of governing requisites. Civilized countries have understood that for thousands of years. How come Phil Mendelson does not?

    Now, apparently, Phil Mendelson has joined in Chief Lanier’s PR campaign to blame-the-messengers, bashing HRW and the police union who warned Mendelson of MPD’s abuses so long ago. What does that tell us?

    Blaming messengers– and all but those responsible, including violent crime victims, is becoming a familiar story from Lanier’s MPD. At least Jim Graham wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions of Chief Lanier about the rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes and her attempts to dismantle GLLU’s core unit.

    If Council wants to rush to reprimand Jim Graham before his case is adjudicated, it ought to also immediately reprimand Phil Mendelson for turning a blind eye to allegations of police malfeasance, abuse of victims, and potential criminal violations of crime victims’ civil rights under color of authority.

    Please, no more hypocrisies while the blood, sweat and tears of women and LGBTs continue to stain the streets of Washington.

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