D.C.'s attorney general publicly criticized the city’s elected leaders for not speaking out more against unethical behavior as the D.C. Council wrestled with writing new, tougher ethics laws.
The District government has been mired in ethics issues since last winter, with Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and Council member Harry Thomas Jr. under federal investigation.
Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser is leading the effort to rewrite the city's ethics laws for elected and other top officials, with tough campaign provisions to require more disclosure of cash and other contributions and to prohibit secret accounts to fund inaugurals, transitions and legal defense funds.
“It ends the questionable practice of allowing lobbyist lawyers to represent elected officials for free or for even reduced rates,” Councilman Tommy Wells said.
The toughest talk came from D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who criticized the failure of officials to condemn unethical behavior.
“A number of our citizens have expressed disappointment that there has been so little condemnation by most elected officials of apparent violations of others,” he said.
Writing a new bill is only part of the issue, Nathan said.
“It will not be sufficient unless it is matched by a change in the attitude reflected in the reaction to ethics failures,” he said.
Under the proposed law, a new three-member ethics panel would have power to investigate allegations of ethical violations and punish perpetrators.
“I think the idea of setting up an ethics committee, which many jurisdictions have, is definitely the way to go,” Council member Jack Evans said.