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Gray nominates gay former D.C. attorney general as head of ethics board

Robert Spagnoletti served as defense attorney for gay defendants in Wone murder case

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Robert Spagnoletti (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has nominated openly gay former D.C. attorney general Robert Spagnoletti to serve as chair of the city’s newly created Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, which is charged with investigating allegations of ethics violations by public officials and city employees.

Gray announced his decision to nominate Spagnoletti and two others to the three-member board at a news conference on Tuesday.

The nominations came nearly six months after the D.C. Council passed legislation in December creating the board following a public outcry over several widely reported allegations of ethical breaches by city officials, including officials with Gray’s 2010 election campaign.

“These nominees have extensive experience in law, public service and ethics as well as sterling professional and personal reputations in our city,” Gray said in a statement. “I have faith that they will serve the people of the District well in safeguarding the trust that our residents place in their elected representatives.”

The board’s responsibilities include investigating allegations of violations of ethics laws by D.C. government employees and public officials. The board is also responsible for issuing new rules and regulations concerning the ethical conduct of city employees and public officials and for conducting mandatory training on the city government’s code of conduct.

Spagnoletti served as the city’s attorney general under the administration of former Mayor Anthony Williams, who appointed him to the post. Prior to his term as attorney general, Spagnoletti served from 1990 to 2003 as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, where he became known as a skilled prosecutor.

After leaving office as D.C. Attorney General in 2006, Spagnoletti became a partner in the D.C. law firm Schertler & Onorato LLP, with a practice in both criminal law and civil litigation. He also served as president of the D.C. Bar.

Spagnoletti, 49, lives in the city’s Shepherd Park neighborhood with his partner and their two sons.

Gray nominated to the ethics board Republican attorney Laura Richards who recently retired as deputy general counsel and staff attorney for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission; and Deborah Lathen, a consultant, corporate lawyer and former official with the Federal Communications Commission.

All three nominees must be confirmed by the Council.

The legislation creating the board requires that no more than two of the board’s member can come from the same political party.

Bob Kabel, the openly gay chair of the D.C. Republican Party, called Richards, a Republican, “an excellent choice” for the position.

“The board is best served with a diversity of opinions and Mrs. Richards would bring just that,” Kabel said in a statement. “The mayor made a strong choice by nominating Mrs. Richards and we are thankful that he was inclusive of the District’s Republican Party when making his selection.”

In creating the board last December, the Council acted in response to calls from community activists and government watchdog groups for a re-writing and strengthening of the city’s existing ethics in government rules, which critics said were too weak.

Some of the same activist and groups criticized Gray for taking too long to nominate the members of the ethics board. Gray said he wanted to seek out the best possible nominees for the panel.

The nominations come shortly after a federal judge sentenced former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) to prison after he pleaded guilty to embezzling city funds. Last month, two former officials who worked on Gray’s mayoral election campaign pleaded guilty to election law violations. The two were accused of arranging for campaign funds to be used to clandestinely pay a mayoral candidate with no chance of winning to denounce and heckle former Mayor Adrian Fenty during campaign debates. Fenty was Gray’s main rival in the campaign for mayor.

D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) is also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office for alleged campaign finance violations.

Spagnoletti surfaced in the news in 2011 when he served on the defense team in a civil case in which three gay men were named in a wrongful death lawsuit by the wife of slain attorney Robert Wone. The civil trial took place after the three men – Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, and Dylan Ward – were acquitted on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges related to Wone’s death.

Wone was found stabbed to death in the men’s Dupont Circle area townhouse in August 2006. No one has been charged with the murder.

The two parties reached an out-of-court settlement in which the defendants agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to Cathy Wone. Spagnoletti and the other attorneys declined to disclose the amount of the settlement.

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Maryland

Moore pardons more than 175,000-plus cannabis-related convictions

Governor signed executive order at State House on Monday

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

BY BRENDA WINTRODE and PAMELA WOOD | Gov. Wes Moore pardoned more than 175,000 cannabis-related convictions Monday, nullifying guilty verdicts decided when carrying small amounts of the drug or paraphernalia was illegal.

The Democratic governor signed an executive order during a State House ceremony, granting clemency to thousands of people convicted in Maryland. The convictions to be pardoned include more than 150,000 misdemeanors for simple possession and more than 18,000 for possession of drug paraphernalia with an intent to use.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Local

Blade wins multiple journalism awards

Society of Professional Journalists recognizes writing, design work

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The D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored the work of the Washington Blade at its annual Dateline Awards dinner last week.

The Blade took top honors in the weekly newspaper editorial/opinion writing category for a piece by Michael Lavers, the Blade’s international news editor, titled, “Bearing witness to the unimaginable,” which recounted watching raw footage of Hamas’s attack against Israel on Oct. 7.

In it, Lavers wrote, “The Israeli government clearly wants the world to understand the barbarity of what happened on Oct. 7, and that is why it has shown footage of that horrific Saturday to journalists and lawmakers. The footage left me deeply shaken, and perhaps that was the point.”

Washington Blade graphic designer Meaghan Juba won the Dateline Award for front-page design in the weekly newspaper category.

And in the weekly newspaper-features category, the Blade’s Kathi Wolfe was recognized as a finalist for her piece titled, “Meet one of the most powerful disabled people on the planet.”

“These awards reflect our 55-year commitment to journalistic excellence,” said Blade Editor Kevin Naff. “Congratulations to our team for another year of award-winning journalism.”

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Baltimore

Baltimore Pride event disrupted by possible chemical agent, causing panic and injuries

Incident caused a stampede

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This year’s Pride Parade and Festival was expected to attract 100,000 people. (Photo by Kaitlin Newman/the Baltimore Banner)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV and BRENNA SMITH | A possible chemical agent was released in front of the main stage at the Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party on Saturday night, causing a stampede.

The incident occurred around 7 p.m. and police did not release the chemical agent, according to a spokesperson. The main stage for the event was located near North Avenue and Charles Street.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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