July 8, 2013

Regarding the June 28 editorial “Law and order in D.C.”:

The independence of the D.C. Office of Attorney General faces a critical challenge under a new bill, proposed by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and supported by several council members, that would put the attorney general’s front-line attorneys and child support services under the direct control of the mayor. Instead of passing the mayor’s bill, the council should preserve the attorney general’s ability to increase transparency and integrity in D.C. government.

In the face of repeated corruption and ethical violations by our government leaders, this is no time to weaken the independent attorney general’s office. Supporters of the mayor’s proposal say agency directors should be the ones to hire the general counsels to prevent conflict in the operations of government, but that is exactly the kind of conflict our government desperately needs: real checks and balances essential to successful and ethical government.

By a margin of 3 to 1, D.C. voters passed a referendum in 2010 to have the next attorney general elected by the people rather than appointed by the mayor — to make sure the attorney general serves the public’s interest. As chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I moved a bill to preserve the powers of the attorney general and support the strong independent oversight, legal analysis and advice the voters chose. Now, more than ever, the District government must guard against conflicts of interest.

Tommy Wells, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents Ward 6 on the D.C. Council.