A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday denied a request by gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham for a temporary restraining order to force the city’s ethics board to withdraw an opinion claiming that Graham violated the city’s code of conduct over a contracting matter in 2008.
Graham and his attorneys wanted the negative opinion by the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability withdrawn to lessen its impact on a special session of the City Council scheduled for Monday, when a proposal to reprimand Graham will be debated and voted on.
In addition to filing a motion seeking the restraining order, Graham’s attorney on Thursday filed a lawsuit on Graham’s behalf challenging the ethics board’s legal authority to issue its opinion that Graham violated the city code of conduct. Lawsuits usually take months or years to wend their way through the judicial system.
“On today’s court action, my lawyer said it best,” Graham said in a comment on Twitter. “We will pursue the lawsuit on the ethics board’s action. The injunction had a very high bar.”
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) on Thursday introduced a resolution calling for the Council to reprimand Graham, citing the opinion of the ethics board and a separate opinion by the Metro transit agency board finding that Graham breached ethics rules over the contract matter.
Both opinions claim Graham acted improperly by allegedly seeking to pressure a businessman into withdrawing a bid for a Metro land 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.
Graham’s lawsuit argues that the ethics board violated the law that created it and violated Graham’s constitutional right of due process by issuing its opinion against Graham without giving him an opportunity to “view the evidence against him, confront it, present contrary evidence and argument, and propose findings of fact after a full adversary hearing.”
The lawsuit adds, “Mr. Graham has suffered severe reputational harm as a result, including impending irreparable harm to his fifteen-year career as a sitting member of the D.C. Council.”