Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has encountered difficulty identifying quality candidates willing to serve on the new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. According to two city officials with knowledge of the matter, several high-caliber candidates, including retired federal judges, have declined invitations to serve on the three-member board. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
An emergency version of the law that went into effect Jan. 29 required that the mayor submit nominees for its review within 45 days. Only early this month did Gray make a public appeal for appointees, days before the deadline elapsed.
D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said Monday that Gray’s chief of staff, Christopher K. Murphy, has assured her nominees will be forthcoming by mid-April. She pledged to move swiftly to move qualified appointees through the Government Operations Committee that she chairs.
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, declined to offer a timetable but expressed confidence that appointees would be swiftly identified. “The administration continues to work to find qualified candidates to fill the positions,” he said. “We’re hopeful that we will be announcing nominees quickly.”
The new board is scheduled to take over a number of oversight functions from the existing Board of Elections and Ethics on Oct. 1, when the District’s fiscal year begins.
Gray has proposed spending $835,000 for the board’s operations next year, enough to hire as many as eight full-time employees. But without board members in place, it’s unclear whether it will be ready to hire those workers or otherwise discharge its responsibilities.
Among them is the handling of financial disclosure statements for elected officials and certain other D.C. government employees. Previously, those filings have been due to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance on May 15 of each year; those filings are not due this year until Oct. 2.
“We trust that the new Ethics Board will provide the public with additional information regarding the new requirements,” the office said in a notice publicizing the new date.
Bowser, who introduced the ethics bill and shepherded it through the council, said the delay was contemplated in the process of enacting the law, which requires a more comprehensive set of disclosures from the covered officials.
“Those disclosure forms had so little information that I’m not sure how much disclosure there actually was,” she said. “We want a more robust system.”