Days after hearing, D.C. watchdog spat continues

October 10, 2013

Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby was unusually demonstrative before a D.C. Council panel Monday. (D.C. Council video)

The months of tension between the District’s inspector general and its ethics board came to a head Monday at a fiery hearing. And despite the warring parties’ pledges to work on a truce, the tiff apparently persists.

D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) sent a letter Thursday to Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, saying Willoughby had reneged on a promise to “engage in further conversations to reach a mutually agreed upon arrangement” about the sharing of investigative records with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.

“It has come to my attention that you have rejected BEGA’s invitation for such a follow-up conversation, in apparent contradiction to your verbal commitment at the hearing,” McDuffie wrote. “I therefore request that you meet with representatives of BEGA to resolve this unfortunate impasse. I trust that this issue can be resolved to both parties’ satisfaction by the end of the month.”

Asked whether the letter fully and accurately represented the situation, Willoughby said in an e-mail, “No, it does not, at all.” He declined to elaborate to a reporter, saying he preferred to do so “in the appropriate forum.”

The board’s chairman, Robert J. Spagnoletti, was more voluble. He said the board’s general counsel reached out to Willoughby after the hearing to set up a meeting. But an aide responded, saying Willoughby did not “see the need to meet” given than an informal information-sharing process had been established.

Never mind that, at the end of the hearing, it was clear that the parties were hardly in agreement about the proper way forward.

“It’s very disappointing, and quite frankly, I’m somewhat embarrassed on behalf of the District that we can’t work through it,” Spagnoletti said. “We would welcome any opportunity to sit and work through our issues.”

If they do not, McDuffie made clear Monday that he is prepared to move legislation guaranteeing the ethics board’s right to inspect the IG’s files — a move Willoughby sharply protested as an assault on his office’s independence.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · October 10, 2013