D.C. Ethics Chairman Hopes to Fix “Crisis in Confidence”

The chairman of D.C.’s new ethics board said his three-member panel will work aggressively to restore public confidence.

Robert Spagnoletti said he took the job because city scandals have caused a "crisis of confidence" with city leaders and workers. The new chairman is promising to be fair and tough.

The city's first ethics chairman, who is a former assistant U.S. attorney and D.C. attorney general, will have broad civil powers to enforce ethics laws.

“It covers a range of things – gifts, impartiality, conflicts of interest, post-government employment, honorarium, financial disclosures, lobbyist registration and the like,” he said. “And so it’s a very broad mandate.”

With two former council members guilty of felonies and Mayor Vincent Gray under criminal investigation for his 2010 campaign, Spagnoletti said his goal is to help restore confidence in city government, believing most city workers are ethical and honest.

“We’re obviously in the throes of a crisis in confidence in government officials,” Spagnoletti said.

“I can go everywhere, and people are more than happy to tell me all the things that they think are wrong with the District of Columbia, including the public officials, and so instead of just listening to the problem and hearing people gripe about it, this is an opportunity to be part of the solution to the problem,” he added.

Nominated by Mayor Gray, Spagnoletti's three-member panel won't be involved in criminal investigations but does have authority to compel city officials to cooperate in its investigations.

“We have the power to impose fines, censure employees, recommend their removal,” he said.

Spagnoletti, currently in private practice as a lawyer, will work only part-time as the D.C. ethics chairman. He is still building a staff.

“If I can contribute to my own community where my kids are growing up and going to school, I think that it’s worth the effort,” he said.

The ethics panel officially begins taking ethics complaints Oct. 1.

Contact Us