Among D.C. Council member Vincent Orange’s many recent ideas for improving the city government is to get a bunch of top-level folks together in a task force to improve “ethics and accountability.”
Orange (D-At Large) wants to place the chairman of the Board of Elections and Ethics, the director of the Office of Campaign Finance, the Inspector General, the D.C. Auditor, the Chief Financial Officer, the Attorney General and the AG’s top ethics counselor on a panel to meet twice a month over the course of a year to look at current ethics laws and suggest possible changes.
But one of the would-be members does not appear to be keen on participating.
A fiscal impact statement prepared by Office of the Chief Financial Officer notes that Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby “opined, through his General Counsel, that his participation in the Task Force would pose a conflict of interest given the independence and the mission of his office.”
District law gives the Office of the Inspector General certain guarantees of independence, including a six-year term for the Inspector General and the ability to essentially set its own budget without interference from city officials.
A spokesman for Willoughby, Roger Burke, declined to comment on Orange’s bill, saying that the notation in the fiscal impact statement “speaks for itself.”
Orange said Monday that he was not aware of Willoughby’s objections, which he found “odd” and “disappointing.” He said that the task force would not be addressing specific cases under the office’s review.
Among the purposes of the Inspector General’s office defined in city law is to “independently ... [p]rovide leadership and coordinate and recommend policies for activities designed to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness and to prevent and detect corruption, mismanagement, waste, fraud, and abuse in District government programs and operations.”
”If the council makes a law, they need to comply with the law,” said Orange, who has had previous disagreements with an inspector general. He added that he’s heard no objections from Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, who also has an independent role in District government.
Orange hoped to force a vote on his “Ethics and Accountability Task Force Emergency Act” at last week’s legislative meeting. It wasn’t placed on the agenda, however, and Wednesday he informed his colleagues that he wants them to vote on it at next week’s meeting.