D.C.’s decision on whether to help build a new soccer stadium could be affected by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s decision to appoint his longtime girlfriend to a key panel assessing the soccer deal.
A stadium could be built on mostly vacant industrial land in near Southwest if the D.C. Council approves Mayor Vincent Gray's complicated, $300 million deal. The deal is so complicated the council, which is divided over the project, voted to spend $200,000 to hire consultants to help review it.
Now controversy has arisen over Mendelson's decision to appoint the woman he has lived with for six years, Carol Mitten, as chairman of the small panel that will select the consultants Friday.
In an interview with News4, Mendelson defended picking Mitten, a veteran of land-use issues for local and federal government who now works for the Department of Homeland Security.
“Well, there's no question that’s a risk I chose to take, but Carol is eminently qualified,” he said.
“There's no money involved in this for any of the members of the panel,” Mendelson added. “There's no payment for their participation.”
But the unannounced appointment of Mitten touched off many critical comments within government and inquiries Tuesday by Darrin Sobin, head of the city's ethics office. Mayor Gray's office also questioned the move.
"No doubt she's eminently qualified,” the mayor's office said of Mitten. "The question is the optics of it. There are plenty of people who could do this in the District of Columbia. Chairman Mendelson raises the opportunity for others to question the work of the committee."
Mendelson told News4 he did consider how some might react to the appointment.