Ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing

D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Jim Gra­ham’s mis­deeds jus­tify a rep­ri­mand.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

“All of the es­sen­tial facts are known. You have a law firm who spent $800,000 of pub­lic funds to un­cover ev­ery as­pect of this. To have an­other in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I don’t know why.”

So spoke D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Jim Gra­ham (D-Ward 1) in Oc­to­ber as he ques­tioned the need for the city’s ethics board to con­duct a for­mal probe of his ac­tions in 2008 as he con­sid­ered pub­lic con­tracts. Now that the ethics board has in­ves­ti­gated and harshly re­buked Mr. Gra­ham, he seems less con­vinced that all the facts are known. As he ma­neu­vers to fore­stall a rep­ri­mand from the coun­cil, Mr. Gra­ham now in­sists that fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion is needed.

On Fri­day a D.C. Su­pe­rior Court judge re­jected Mr. Gra­ham’s bid for an emer­gency or­der to over­turn the opin­ion of the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability that he acted in­ap­pro­pri­ately. Mr. Gra­ham is al­leged to have of­fered to sup­port a bid­der for the city’s lot­tery con­tract if the bid­der would with­draw from a sep­a­rate Metro land deal so that an­other firm Mr. Gra­ham fa­vored could de­velop the par­cel. The ethics board con­cluded that Mr. Gra­ham, at the time also a Metro board mem­ber, vi­o­lated at least three prin­ci­ples of the city’s code of con­duct. But it de­cided not to pro­ceed to a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause no pro­vi­sions for penal­ties against coun­cil mem­bers were in place at the time of his ac­tions.

Mr. Gra­ham has de­nied any wrong­do­ing. One of his at­tor­neys, Caro­line Judge Me­hta, told us that he will con­tinue ef­forts to strike the board’s find­ing from the pub­lic record. She said that the process had de­nied Mr. Gra­ham a fair hear­ing and was “a disgrace.”

Whether the ethics board met le­gal muster is an is­sue for the court, but it is clear that Mr. Gra­ham acted im­prop­erly, from the in­for­ma­tion amassed in a se­ries of in­ves­ti­ga­tions dat­ing to 2008 and in­clud­ing the Washington Met­ro­pol­i­tan Area Tran­sit Author­ity report that he cited.

“His con­duct ad­versely harmed the pub­lic’s con­fi­dence of the District government,” said D.C. Coun­cil Chair­man Phil Men­del­son (D), who has called for a spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing to be held Mon­day to rep­ri­mand Mr. Gra­ham and strip his com­mit­tee of cov­eted over­sight over liquor li­censes.

The record am­ply jus­ti­fies such a rep­ri­mand. But if the coun­cil ac­cedes to Mr. Gra­ham’s wish for a full-scale coun­cil in­ves­ti­ga­tion, maybe it can fi­nally de­ter­mine whether the spe­cious charges he brought against former pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer Eric W. Payne were part of po­lit­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tions of the lot­tery con­tract.

Maybe the de­vel­op­ers that Mr. Gra­ham is al­leged to have fa­vored in the Metro deal would be more co­op­er­a­tive than they were with Metro in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

And maybe Mr. Gra­ham’s me­mory will have im­proved since July 27, 2012, when in sworn tes­ti­mony to an in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Metro he was asked point-blank “did you give — make any state­ment what­so­ever . . . that could have been in­ter­preted or mis­in­ter­preted as a quid pro quo, if you give me some­thing, I will give you some­thing.” Mr. Gra­ham said that he couldn’t re­call, to which his ques­tioner ex­pressed some sur­prise since “mak­ing a state­ment of a con­stituent or a per­son in the District that if you give me this, I’ ll sup­port you for this seems to me like a pretty se­ri­ous thing. And I’m — I’m just a bit sur­prised that you just don’t re­call that.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.