The D.C. Council unanimously approved an emergency bill yesterday that would force the city's inspector general out of his job, after a last-minute effort by Mayor Anthony A. Williams to delay the vote failed.
Before the council session began, the mayor privately asked Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) to try to help him negotiate more time to work out a deal with Inspector General Charles C. Maddox, several council members said. When Cropp approached the council members, they declined.
The council voted 12 to 0 in favor of a measure that would require the inspector general to be a graduate of an accredited law school and a member of the D.C. Bar for at least seven years, or to be a licensed certified public accountant for seven years. All 13 council members co-sponsored the bill.
Under the legislation, the inspector general would have to meet the new requirements by June 1, which would make Maddox ineligible for the position. Maddox graduated from a law school that was not accredited by the American Bar Association and has been a member of the D.C. Bar for less than a year. Maddox's term expires in May 2005.
Williams (D) has 10 days to veto the bill, and the council could override a veto with nine votes. Council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large) voted "present" at yesterday's meeting.
Tony Bullock, a mayoral spokesman, said: "Before the mayor would make a decision on this legislation, he would want to check to see if what the council has done was legal. There's certainly been some doubt on this. Can they change the requirements in the middle of the term?"
Maddox said in a statement: "It's obvious that the council wants to fire this IG more than halfway through his fixed term because they want someone in office who will not continue to conduct sensitive investigations that could lead to findings of misconduct at the highest levels, including within the council itself. They passed this legislation because they do not want the truly independent watchdog that Congress intended.''
Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) said an aide from the mayor's policy office asked him Friday to delay the vote. Instead, Orange said, he outlined for the aide the reasons the mayor could terminate Maddox for cause.
"I hope the mayor is finally trying to examine all the issues to ascertain whether there is a basis to fire Mr. Maddox for cause," said Orange, author of the legislation to oust the inspector general. "The council certainly believes there is overwhelming evidence that establishes cause beyond a reasonable doubt. The honorable thing would be for Mr. Maddox to resign."
Orange has publicly chastised Maddox for dismissing a request by a lawyer in the city's Office of Human Rights to investigate a questionable contract awarded to the brother of a Washington Teachers' Union official, a move that two years ago could have started to unravel the alleged theft of millions of dollars by union officials. Maddox and two special agents said under oath in a council hearing that they were unaware of the request.
Several council members have questioned Maddox's relationship with Williams and complained that it took the inspector general's office more than a year and $1 million to investigate fundraising activities by the mayor's office.
Last year, the council unanimously voted no confidence in Maddox and asked the city's Office of Personnel to investigate whether he was in violation of residency laws. Maddox owns a home in Prince George's County, where his wife lives, but the inspector general says he stays in a family-owned condominium in the District.
Maddox has the option of seeking help from members of Congress who oversee District matters. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, have previously said they do not want to get involved in the issue. Norton and Davis have not changed their minds, their spokesmen said yesterday. Congress has the right to review all District legislation.
Council member David A. Catania (R-At Large) said that he expects Maddox to resign but that it would not come as a surprise if the inspector general filed a lawsuit to challenge the council.
"This is a locally established office, and I would expect him to follow changes to that law and be respectful," Catania said, referring to yesterday's legislative action. "If he refuses to follow that law, it would be a home rule showdown. Potentially, the matter could find its way to court."