Vincent Orange’s role in market’s inspection subject of D.C. ethics inquiry

The District’s ethics board is launching a preliminary inquiry into D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange’s visit to a city produce market that health inspectors were attempting to close, according to people familiar with the matter.

City officials, who asked not to be identified so they could speak freely about the matter, said the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability has requested to meet with health inspectors who encountered Orange at Sam Wang Produce on Dec. 21.

According to the inspection report, Orange showed up just as inspectors were attempting to close the market for rat infestation and other issues. Orange, who has received campaign donations from the market’s owners, requested to speak to the inspector’s bosses.

Health officials closed the market, which was allowed to reopen the next day.

Orange (D-At Large) has said he became involved because he worried that an extended closure could have cost 40 store employees their paychecks over the holidays.

Darrin Sobin, the board’s executive director, declined to comment, saying that preliminary ethics board investigations are confidential.

On Tuesday, D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) questioned whether Orange’s involvement led the Health Department to permit the market to reopen sooner than it should have.

Health Department officials deny that Orange played a role in their decision to allow the market to reopen, which they say happened after its owners hired an exterminator, paid a $400 reinspection fee and cleaned up visible signs of rodents.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said Wednesday that he was gathering information about the incident. “I just know, if the law is being violated, the law should be implemented and enforced to the extent that it would be enforced for everybody,” Gray said.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.

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