September 23, 2013

D.C. COUNCIL members Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) took exception to our criticism of their opposition to the formal rebuke of council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) for misconduct. That’s their right; we welcome different points of view. But we weren’t impressed when, to defend themselves, they impugned the motives of two of their colleagues whose only offense was doing a job they had been asked to do.

In a letter that appeared Monday on this page, Mr. Orange and Mr. Graham said they were willing to go along with censuring Mr. Barry for his improper acceptance of cash payments from city contractors, but they didn’t favor stripping him of the chairmanship of the Committee on Workforce and Community Affairs. They said they were troubled that two members of the ad hoc committee that investigated Mr. Barry — Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and David Grosso (I-At Large) — don’t chair any committees and could benefit from the penalty if selected to take over for Mr. Barry as head of the workforce committee. Mr. Graham and Mr. Orange ended up in the minority when the council voted last week 9 to 4to follow the recommendations of the investigating panel.

“Our moral moment,” Mr. Orange and Mr. Graham wrote, included “avoiding the appearance of impropriety or conflicts of interest.” Please. The last time we checked, neither Ms. Bonds nor Mr. Grosso had run afoul — as have both Mr. Orange and Mr. Graham — of any ethics rules. Neither Mr. Grosso nor Ms. Bonds asked to be on the ad hoc committee, and it was not an easy task, particularly for Ms. Bonds, who enjoys a long friendship with Mr. Barry, to recommend action against the popular former mayor. If indeed there is to be a change in committee assignments — and we hope there will be — it would come only after the full body votes on a recommendation from council chairman Phil Mendelson (D).

None of that, though, stopped Mr. Orange or Mr. Graham from making reckless suggestions about two colleagues. Mr. Orange didn’t respond to our request for comment; Mr. Graham e-mailed us that he tried to withdraw his name from the letter, but his Sunday-night request came after the letter had been published online. Mr. Graham’s belated second thoughts hopefully indicate some awareness that neither he (reprimanded by the council this year for questionable conduct in 2008 involving the lottery contract) nor Mr. Orange (sanctioned this year by ethics officials for improperly intervening with city health inspectors) is in any position to deliver lectures on what makes for good government.