For Immediate Release
Media contact: Eric B. Williams
Email: email@example.com | cell: 202.255.2205
DC City Council Ethics Bill Fails to Deliver
November 29, 2011—Today, At-Large D.C. Council candidate David Grosso expressed disappointment with the Council’s lackluster effort to address serious ethics violations by elected officials in D.C. Although Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) has proposed a bill that purports to address these problems, Grosso said it did not go far enough.
"The question on everyone's mind is; would the Bowser bill clearly prohibit the recent outrageous conduct by our elected officials and require that they uphold the high standard of conduct we demand of them? The answer is, no. This bill fails to deliver the comprehensive reforms necessary to ensure that our city is governed free of corruption and ethics violations," Grosso said.
Grosso cited three specific areas that must be changed to make the bill effective:
First, Council constituent services funds, which too often are used as slush funds and are routinely abused, should be eliminated entirely. Instead, an office in the executive branch should be established to handle all constituent requests quickly and efficiently, with oversight and accountability, and with an expedited track for emergencies.
Second, councilmembers should be required to work full time for the Council. Any request to take on outside employment should be reviewed by an independent ethics panel to address potential areas of conflict, and any outside salary should be capped at a reasonable level, less than a councilmember's government salary. Grosso stated, "Every councilmember should work for the city full time, and his or her full attention should be on what is best for the people of Washington, D.C., not what is best for the councilmember's outside employer."
Third, the conflict-of-interest and recusal provisions of the bill should be strengthened. "We cannot accept less than complete disclosure and tough penalties for violations," Grosso said."The iGaming scandal has shown us the danger of allowing conflicts of interest to remain secret and of allowing our ethics laws to remain without teeth. Who stood to gain when Internet gambling became legal, Michael A. Brown (I-At-Large) and his firm's gambling clients or the people of the District of Columbia? We must end the complete lack of accountability that the iGaming scandal uncovered."
Grosso concluded, “Without these changes―ending constituent-services slush-funds, requiring that councilmembers work full time for the Council, and strengthening the conflict-of-interest provisions to prevent councilmembers from putting their own financial interests above the needs of city residents―the Council will essentially be trying to stop an overflowing river of corruption with a stack of orange traffic cones: People may take notice, but it won’t stop the water.”