Ben Nuckols of the Associated Press also contributed to this report.
A D.C. councilmember violated the code of conduct of Washington's Metro transit system when he tried to barter a Metro real estate project with a contract being considered by the D.C. Council, an independent review has found.
The report released Thursday does not allege any criminal activity by Council member Jim Graham, although its authors are cooperating with federal law enforcement officials who are investigating the city's lottery contract.
According to the report, Graham committed “a clear violation” of Metro's standards of conduct when he offered to support a developer's bid for the lottery contract in exchange for the developer's withdrawal from a project around a Metro station.
Graham, a Ward 1 Democrat, served on the Metro board when he made the offer during a 2008 meeting with developer Warren Williams. The offer was rejected by Williams and his partners in the lottery bid. Ultimately, the D.C. Council rejected the lottery contract, and the Metro project was never built.
Graham disputed the report's finding that he violated Metro board standards but said its conclusions did not especially trouble him.
"I'm pleased that there was no allegation or suggestion of any criminal behavior or any unlawful financial interest,” Graham told The Associated Press. He noted that Metro's general counsel had previously reached the same conclusion. Graham ultimately voted in favor of the Metro project, although he voted against the lottery contract.
The report, prepared by the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, found that Graham's actions created a conflict of interest between his work on the board and the council, and that he violated his obligation to act in the public interest in contractual matters.
“As a result of Council member Graham’s actions, the public’s trust in Metro’s joint development process has been harmed, and accordingly, Council member Graham’s actions resulted in a breach of his duty to place the public’s interest first and foremost,” investigator Bradley Bondi said.
As Graham is no longer a board member, Metro has no administrative action it can take against him.
“For assessments of whether this could constitute a violation of the law or a crime, those we leave to the determination of other law enforcement bodies,” Bondi said.
Other law enforcement authorities, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, are looking at this contracting mess with Jim Graham, the city and Metro’s board, sources told News4. In the past, Graham repeatedly has said he has done nothing illegal and has not profited from the handling of any contracts.
Metro’s board says it has improved its own ethics rules during the past few months as the investigation was under way. The board has said it will do more review about what other ethics reforms can be made to prevent something like this from happening again.
"With the release of this report, WMATA has taken an important step forward in its ongoing commitment to openness, transparency and being fully accountable for our actions,” Board Chair Catherine said.