Letter to the Editor

A flawed ethics process targets D.C. Council member Jim Graham

Members of the media and elected officials have been raising a hue and cry about the opinion of the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability concerning D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). Some, including The Post [“Mr. Graham should go,” editorial, Feb. 8], have said he should resign. They need to stop and think.

As we have pointed out, Mr. Graham’s “offense” was telling what he believed to be an unqualified suitor for a lucrative Metro contract that he did not think his record justified multiple public contracts. Public officials demanding action against Mr. Graham should ask themselves whether they have ever done anything similar or worse.

Further, the ethics board acted lawlessly in this matter. It published what it called “findings” without any semblance of a fair process and in violation of its own rules. It found him guilty without a trial, indeed without giving him access to the evidence it was considering, and without telling him that it was considering finding him guilty of something. We had to beg even for an opportunity to address the board.

No one — including the members of the board — has accused Mr. Graham of trying to benefit himself. As the D.C. Council considers its options, it should begin by asking the simple question, “Do Jim Graham’s offhand words really justify the condemnation that he has endured?” And then it should consider whether it should endorse without question the so-called findings in the opinion that accompanied the ethics board’s decision to dismiss the matter, rather than proceed to a formal hearing where due-process rights would have to be observed.

Public officials will regret jumping on this bandwagon because they are condoning an ethics process that is no process at all.

William W. Taylor and Rachel F. Cotton, Washington

The writers are lawyers representing D.C. Council member Jim Graham.

 
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