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D.C. Council reprimands Graham, strips him of committee duties

Gay Councilman expected to seek re-election next year

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Jim Graham, Democratic Party, Ward 1, Washington D.C., Washington Blade, gay news
Jim Graham, Democratic Party, Ward 1, Washington D.C., Washington Blade, gay news

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

The D.C. Council voted 11 to 2 on Monday to reprimand gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) on grounds that he violated a Council ethics rule in 2008 by improperly intervening in a contract approval process.

In a separate action, the Council voted 10 to 2, with one member voting “present,” to strip Graham of his committee responsibilities over the city’s alcoholic beverage regulatory agency and liquor law policy.

The reprimand and sanction against Graham’s committee responsibilities were approved in the form of separate resolutions introduced by Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large). Mendelson argued that action against Graham was needed to maintain the confidence of the pubic in the “integrity” the Council and the city government.

“It is time to move on,” Graham said in a statement released after the Council session adjourned.

“I have very important responsibilities as chairman of the human services committee and all the responsibility of representing Ward 1,” he said. “Going forward, I will continue to represent the people who elected me to serve with the same passion and fervor as I have from my first day in office.”

Graham and Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) were the only two of the 13 Council members to vote against the two resolutions. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) voted for the reprimand resolution but voted “present,” which is considered a form of abstention, on the resolution taking away Graham’s committee duties on liquor law matters.

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, who attended Monday’s Council session, said he is uncertain whether the Council’s action and the ethics board opinion that Graham violated city ethics rules would have a harmful impact on Graham’s longtime support from LGBT voters.

“This is not about LGBT issues,” Rosendall said. “Jim has been a strong and committed ally on that.”

Rosendall, as did Mendelson, also noted that the ethics related allegations against Graham do not involve a breach in the city’s criminal laws and no one has accused Graham of such an allegation.

Some political observers note that Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large), who defeated incumbent Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large) last November following a campaign that attacked Brown on ethics related issues, won in nearly all of the city’s precincts with large numbers of LGBT residents.

At Monday’s Council session, Grosso said he would favor more stringent sanctions against Graham, noting that large numbers of his constituents urged him to push for a censure rather than a reprimand against Graham.

Graham has been highly popular in Ward 1, where he has been credited with playing a key role in improving neighborhoods and boosting economic development, especially in the Columbia Heights neighborhood that has become one of the city’s popular retail and entertainment centers.

The Council’s vote for the reprimand and committee sanction came after a 40 minute debate in which Barry, a former D.C. mayor, was the only member to speak against the two resolutions.

Marion Barry, Jim Graham, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) speaks with his colleague, Graham, before the session. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I’m arguing that Jim Graham has not been given due process,” Barry said, adding that he believes Graham was denied his constitutional right of due process under the law because both the Council and the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability didn’t hold hearings to allow Graham to dispute the allegations against him.

Mendelson and Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), a law professor at George Washington University Law School, disputed Barry’s argument, saying Graham was given an opportunity to present his case against the allegations during deliberations of three separate entities that have investigated the allegations.

Mendelson said he was prompted to introduce the reprimand and committee sanction resolutions after the ethics board issued an opinion saying it found a “substantial body of evidence” that Graham violated the code of conduct for a city employee or official in connection with the contracting matter.

He noted that the ethics board, an investigation conducted by a private law firm on behalf of the Metro Transit board, and the city’s Inspector General each looked into the matter.

All three entities concluded that Graham acted improperly by allegedly attempting to pressure businessman Warren Williams into withdrawing a bid for a Metro land development contract in exchange for Graham’s support for Williams receiving a D.C. lottery contract.

Graham has denied interfering with the contract approval process. He has said he favored awarding the Metro contract to a competing businessman, but has said he did so because the other businessman’s company was better qualified to carry out the terms of the contract.

Through his attorneys, Graham last week filed a lawsuit against the ethics board on grounds that it violated the city law that created it by issuing an opinion on Graham’s case without holding a hearing in which Graham had the opportunity to contest the allegations and evidence used against him.

Graham told his colleagues during the Council session Monday that he plans to move forward with his lawsuit but hopes to continue working amicably with them on future Council business.

Although he declined Mendelson’s offer to allow him to speak on the reprimand resolution before the Council voted on it, Graham spoke at considerable length on the resolution calling for taking away his committee responsibilities on liquor law matters.

Saying he is “very proud” of what he and his committee have done to improve the city’s laws regulating bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, he urged his colleagues not to strip him of those responsibilities.

“There is no relationship between my reprimand and the role I play on these committee issues,” he said.

Mendelson told the Blade after the Council session ended that there was “no question” that the decision to strip Graham of his liquor law responsibilities was a form of “punishment” linked to the reprimand.

“It’s a diminishment of his committee responsibilities and goes with the reprimand,” he said. “That’s why they were both on the agenda today.”

Gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who voted for both the reprimand and the committee sanction but didn’t speak during the Council debate, told the Blade following the Council session that he strongly disagrees with Graham and Barry’s claim that Graham was denied due process rights.

“I thought that was nonsense,” said Catania. “This is a disciplinary proceeding, not a criminal justice proceeding. And the notion of a lack of due process is laughable,” he said.

“Candidly, I think this whole thing could have been handled much differently at the onset if Mr. Graham would have acknowledged that, in hindsight, he perhaps was a little over zealous and perhaps went too far [in the contract matter] and apologized,” Catania said. ‘He’s been defiant all along. Had he apologized two years ago we might not be here today.”

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Maryland

As Md. advances bill to fund gender-affirming care, LGBTQ advocates stress it will save lives

Trans Health Equity Act would impact state Medicaid

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

By John-John Williams IV | Shaylie Elliette wishes the Trans Health Equity Act that appears headed for final passage in the Maryland General Assembly would have been around seven years ago, when she turned 18. She believes that transitioning earlier in life would have eliminated years of torment, abuse and discrimination all linked to transphobia.

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

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District of Columbia

Whitman-Walker announces leadership change

CEO Ryan Moran to become Deputy Secretary of Health in Maryland

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Dr. Ryan Moran is leaving his role as CEO of the Whitman-Walker Health System. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Ryan Moran, who has served since 2021 as CEO of the Whitman-Walker Health System, an arm of D.C.’s longtime LGBTQ and HIV health services provider Whitman-Walker Health, will be leaving his position next month after being named as Deputy Secretary of Health and Healthcare Finance and Medicaid Director for the State of Maryland.

According to a March 21 statement released by Whitman-Walker, Moran will begin his new job as a member of the Maryland Department of Health’s senior leadership team effective April 12.

The statement says Cindy Lewin, an official with nonprofit organizations for more than 25 years and who previously served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the AARP, will serve as interim CEO at Whitman-Walker Health System beginning April 10.

Around that time, the statement says, Whitman-Walker will begin a nationwide executive search “to secure a permanent CEO” for the top position at Whitman-Walker Health System.

The statement points out that Naseema Shafi will continue in her role as CEO of Whitman-Walker Health, the other component of Whitman-Walker that directly provides and oversees medical and health care services to patients and clients, including those from the LGBTQ community.

Whitman-Walker Health System, among other things, advances the mission of Whitman-Walker through expanding its financial and fundraising capacity through the Whitman-Walker Foundation, the Whitman-Walker Institute, and the Whitman-Walker Health System Real Property Holdings, the statement says.

“Whitman-Walker Health System is grateful for Ryan’s visionary leadership, which has advantageously positioned us for our once in a generation expansion of research and health services with our move to the Saint Elizabeth campus this year,” said Dr. Ann Bonham, the Whitman-Walker Health System Board Chair.

“While the organization will miss Ryan, his enthusiasm and passion for the work and his commitment to the mission of Whitman-Walker, I am sure he will be a transformative leader in his new role,” Bonham said.

“I am deeply grateful to Whitman-Walker for the opportunity to steward our mission-driven organization as a regional and national leader in LGBTQ+ care, advocacy, research, and education,” Moran said in the statement.

“I am honored to have contributed to this organization’s rich history, and I am proud of the work Naseema Shafi and I have accomplished together and of the exceptional board senior leadership team, and staff for their collaboration in building a strong foundation for Whitman-Walker’s future success,” he said.

The statement announcing the Whitman-Walker leadership change notes that Moran played an important role in continuing the organization’s previously started plans for opening its new Max Robinson Center at the city’s St. Elizabeth’s campus in Southeast D.C. According to the statement, the new center will provide services and programs to more than 15,000 people each year, a 300 percent increase from the existing Max Robinson Center located in Anacostia.

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Local

Comings & Goings

Inouye named Deputy Assistant Secretary in communications at Dept. of Education

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Shin Inouye (Photo public domain)

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Congratulations to Shin Inouye on his appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Communications and Outreach, U.S. Department of Education. He said, “I’m honored to join the Biden-Harris administration and the amazing team under Secretary Cardona.  Working with my outstanding colleagues, I am confident we will meet our goal to raise the bar and promote academic excellence in America.” 

Previously, Inouye served as Executive Vice President of Communications, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund. He also held a number of high-level positions in the Obama administration, including Press Secretary and Acting Senior Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Executive Office of the President; White House Office of Communications: Director of Specialty Media; and as an authorized spokesperson for the Obama Inaugural Committee, with a focus on specialty media outlets.

Inouye has received many honors, including being named one of 25 “LGBTI next generation leaders to watch” by Out in National Security and the Atlantic Council; and one of “40 Asian American Pacific Islander National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders” by New America and the Diversity in National Security Network.

Congratulations also to Tristan Fitzpatrick, on his promotion to Senior Communications Consultant at APCO Worldwide. Fitzpatrick said, “I am thrilled to start this new position and look forward to the start of a new chapter advising clients on how to best achieve their communications and public affairs goals.” Tristan has worked with APCO for the past year and a half. They are the fifth largest independently owned PR firm in the United States. Prior to that, Fitzpatrick was a Digital Media Specialist with the National Public Pension Coalition in D.C. He worked as a Communications and Digital Adviser, to the Biden for President campaign. He advised the campaign’s Out for Biden Coalition on communications and digital best practices for turning out 11 million LGBTQ and 57 million pro-equality voters. Tristan has also been a Communications Manager and Digital Outreach Coordinator, Cancer Support Community, Washington, DC.   

Tristan Fitzpatrick
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