News & Politics

The DC City Council’s Dreary Ethics Record

Since 2010, the city has seen eight of its leaders investigated, indicted, or sentenced.

The reprimand Monday of DC City Council member
Jim Graham is only the latest in a pattern of ethics actions taken against a significant number
of former or current council members. There are 13 members of the DC City Council,
and in the past few years eight have been reprimanded, censured, or indicted, or become
the focus of an investigation by the federal government or DC, including the city’s
Vincent Gray.

Here’s how it tallies up:

March 2010: Ward 8 council member
Marion Barry is censured for steering a city contract to a sometime girlfriend and also taking
cash out of the deal himself. Punishment: He’s stripped of his chairmanship of the
Committee on Housing and Workforce Development.

August 2011: Ward 7 council member
Yvette M. Alexander is investigated by the DC Office of Campaign Finance for improper use of her constituent
fund, but an audit clears her, saying she did not personally benefit from the money.

October 2011: Newly elected mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign becomes the
focus of an investigation by US Attorney Ronald Machen, who is looking into finance
irregularities. The investigation is ongoing.

January 2012: Ward 5 council member
Harry Thomas Jr. resigns after federal prosecutors charge him with embezzlement and filing false tax
returns. In May 2012 he is sentenced to three years and three months in prison.

June 2012: DC City Council chairman Kwame Brown is hit with federal charges of bank
fraud and DC charges of filing a false tax return. In November the feds sentence him
to one day in jail and 480 hours of community service. A DC Superior Court sentenced
him to 30 days in jail for the tax issue, but the sentence was suspended.

August 2013: At-large council member
Michael Brown triggered an investigation into his campaign after he announced that more than $100,000
was stolen. He blamed his former treasurer. Brown lost a bid for reelection.

October 2012: At-large council member
Vincent Orange, after a seven-month investigation, is cleared of questions pertaining to his 2011
campaign finances. Or, as the
Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis, put it: “Under the loosest of definition, yes, Orange’s campaign
earned a clean bill of health.”

February 2013: Ward 1 council member Jim Graham is reprimanded by the City Council
for shenanigans involving the city lottery contract. Punishment: His committee, Human
Services, is stripped of oversight of the ABC Board.