The Washington Post

D.C. ethics board looking into Orange’s role in market’s reopening

D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The District’s ethics board is launching a preliminary inquiry into D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange’s visit to a city produce market that health inspectors were attempting to close, according to sources familiar with the matter.

City officials, who asked not to be identified so they could speak freely about the matter, said the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability has requested to meet with health inspectors who encountered Orange at the Sam Wang Produce market Dec. 21.

According to the inspection report, Orange showed up at the market just as inspectors were attempting to close it for a rat infestation and other issues. Orange, who has received campaign donations from the market’s owners, requested to speak to the inspectors’ bosses.

Health officials still closed the market, but it was allowed to reopen the following day.

Orange said he became involved because he worried that an extended closure could have cost 40 store employees a paycheck over the holidays.

Darrin Sobin, executive director of the ethics board, declined to comment, noting preliminary ethics board investigations are confidential under city regulations.

On Tuesday, D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) questioned whether Orange’s involvement caused the Health Department to allow the market to reopen sooner than it should have been allowed to.

But health department officials deny that Orange played a role in their decision to allow the market to reopen. They said the market reopened after its owners hired an exterminator, paid a $400 reinspection fee and cleaned up visible signs of rodents.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who has oversight over the health department, said Wednesday that he is gathering information about the incident.

“I just know, if the law is being violated, the law should be implemented and enforced to the extent that it would be enforced for everybody,” Gray said.

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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