The Washington Post

D.C. Council overhauls ethics rules

(Editor’s Note: This blog post initially included an incorrect year for the District’s Home Rule and did not include Council member Tommy Wells’ reason for voting against the ethics legislation. It has been updated.)

The D.C. Council approved an overhaul of the city’s ethics laws Tuesday, toughening disclosure requirements and for the first time agreeing on an impeachment process that punishes misconduct.

The bill, approved by a vote of 12 to 1, caps a six-month effort by the council to respond to a series of ethical controversies involving some council members that have shaken the public’s confidence in its ability to police itself. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) voted against the legislation because he didn’t believe it went far enough.

Under the legislation, which now goes to Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) for his signature, the council voted to establish a new three-member ethics panel, bar felons from serving on the council or as mayor and — for the first time — grant powers to the D.C. attorney general to prosecute elected officials accused of ethical misconduct.

During the final series of votes Tuesday, the council also agreed to establish a process, for the first time since Home Rule in 1975, that would enable the council to remove a colleague if 11 of 13 members agree.

“To make these kinds of improvements that we did today, shows our commitment to make sure ethics reform is alive and well,” said Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D). Brown, whose 2008 campaign expenditures are under scrutiny, had promised the council would act on the reforms before the end of the year.

With half of the body up for election next year, Brown and his colleagues hope the new legislation will help them pivot away from the ethical controversies and investigations that have partially consumed the government this year.

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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