On Tuesday, the D.C. Council took up the “Electrician’s Equality Act of 2011,” a bill that changes the licensing requirements for journeyman electricians. It passed with little debate and is notable only because David A. Catania (I-At Large) happened to recuse himself.
That, Catania explained on the dais, is because he has a new executive job with one of the nation’s largest electrical contractors. In August, he started as vice president for corporate strategy for M.C. Dean Inc.
Catania had previously served since 2005 as general counsel for OpenBand LLC, a subsidiary of M.C. Dean that operates broadband communications networks, earning $120,000 a year according to financial disclosure reports.
His new position will pay twice as much, he said.
The job comes with a broad portfolio, Catania said Wednesday — overseeing corporate litigation, managing legal compliance efforts, doing government affairs work and also doing some business development. He reports to company CEO Bill Dean (who, incidentally, has been active in city politics).
“It’s kind of a jack of all trades, frankly,” he said. “Most of it is going to be constructing our legal compliance program and ethics programs in government affairs.”
It should be noted that M.C. Dean does have affairs with the District government — one, anyway, a $9 million-a-year transportation department contract to maintain the city’s street lights and traffic signals. In perspective, the business with the city is fairly minuscule for a company recently ranked as the nation’s second largest electrical firm. But Catania has recused himself from council votes in the past based on indirect conflicts, including the renewal of a cable television franchise for Comcast, an OpenBand competitor.
Catania’s $240,000 outside salary might not be particularly impressive for a senior executive at a $900 million company, which he says is “a reflection of the fact I have other responsibilities.” But among D.C. Council members, it puts him ahead of colleagues Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who reported $190,000 in income from the Patton Boggs law firm last year. Catania is on par with Michael Brown (I-At Large), who reported $240,000 in income from the Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge law firm, which he has since left. And he trails Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), a George Washington University law professor, who reported more than $280,000 in outside income.
The recent focus on D.C. government ethics reform has produced some calls to end outside employment for Council members. But at a hearing last week, Catania delivered a full-throated defense of second jobs, arguing that the private sector offered valuable perspective for lawmakers and also makes public service attractive to folks who might otherwise have to forego much higher-paying jobs.
Wednesday, incidentally, was not a great day for Catania in his day job. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors rejected a franchise agreement with OpenBand following complaints from some county residents about subpar service.
“The story isn’t over,” Catania said, noting that the company might resubmit its application or pursue legal challenges. He also noted that next Tuesday’s elections might well result in a new set of supervisors.