With D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign under investigation and two members of the D.C. Council -- including the chairman -- accused of mishandling money, the council met Wednesday to try to stop the erosion of public trust.
Government Operations Committee Chair Muriel Bowser thinks it’s time for an independent ethics board.
"We want to have a substantively different approach to ethics enforcement in the District of Columbia,” she said.
“This is a low point in this body,” Councilman David Catania said. “I can't remember a time in which so many members were under either investigation or a cloud of suspicion."
Nor can most council members recall a time when there were so many pieces of legislation addressing a single issue: Ethics. Ten bills are before the council.
“Ten bills demonstrate that this council may not know how to specifically deal with this issue,” said Barbara Lang, of the Chamber of Commerce.
There are several approaches embodied in this legislative package, from term limits to tighter limits on council members’ outside employment. One proposal floated would eliminate council members’ constituent services funds, money that typically and ideally goes to citizens in times of dire need.
One theme that was consistent through the gamut of possible remedies: They all need teeth.
"If you are found guilty of failing to disclose things in your statements, you have to give up your seat on the council or resign as mayor,” Councilman Jack Evans suggested. “I bet that would get everybody's attention.”
Council members have indicated that there will be some version of a new ethics profile for D.C. government, from the executive down, by the end of the year.