February 11, 2013

Two investigations into the actions of D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) — one commissioned by Metro’s board of directors, and the other a preliminary inquiry conducted by the city’s ethics board – regarding the D.C. Lottery contract and a Metro development contract found substantial evidence that Graham violated codes of conduct of, respectively, WMATA and the District of Columbia.

Graham, the investigative records show, abused his office. He also dishonored the D.C. Council and embarrassed the citizens of the District through his unethical behavior.

Graham says he is not resigning his office. He declares that he has violated no law, committed no crime and made no illegal financial request.

Those may be the standards by which he measures his conduct. But he sets the bar too low. As an elected official, Graham must be held to a higher standard.

The public rightly expects its public officials to serve with honor and act in the public interest at all times. Displays of partiality and actions taken out of personal animus have no place in public service.

The evidence shows that Graham failed to live up to those ethical standards.

The city’s ethics board found “sufficient evidence” of Graham’s violations of the D.C. code of conduct but said it was unable to sanction Graham because the board had not been created at the time of his misconduct. An ex post facto application of sanctions would be unconstitutional, the board declared.

That decision should not mean that Graham will escape accountability for his conduct. The D.C. Council can act, and it should.

If their oath of office is to mean anything, Graham’s colleagues have no choice but to censure him for his reprehensible behavior.

To do anything less will only subject the council to the same loss of public respect that is now Jim Graham’s burden to bear.