D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday that he plans to talk to council member Jim Graham before deciding whether the council should formally request a District ethics probe into Graham’s conduct when he served on the Metro Board.
Last week, an internal review by the Metro Board of Directors concluded that Graham improperly used his council position to attempt to influence plans in 2008 to develop Metro-owned land on Florida Avenue NW.
Graham, who at the time was the official council designee to the board, has denied he did anything improper, and the board’s review concluded that Graham did not violate any laws when he allegedly attempted to connect the city’s lottery contract to Metro’s efforts to select a developer for the Florida Avenue property.
But the report states that Graham told representatives of Banneker Ventures that he would support its bid for the lucrative D.C. lottery contract in exchange for it dropping its efforts to pursue the Metro property.
Though the Metro probe is complete, Graham could face scrutiny from the newly created D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, chaired by former attorney general Robert J. Spagnoletti. The new three-member panel, approved by the council as part of a comprehensive ethics reform legislation in December, was officially impaneled Oct. 1.
The board has the power to investigate all ethics complaints within the government and recommend sanctions against elected officials.
During his monthly news conference Monday, Mendelson came under aggressive questioning from Washington Examiner columnist Jonetta Rose Barras about whether the council would request that the ethics board follow up on the Metro board report.
“It appears to me Mr. Graham has violated the District of Columbia Code of Conduct,” Rose Barras said.
Washington Post columnist Colby King has also called on the ethics board to investigate the matter.
But Mendelson appears hesitant to embrace another investigation into his colleague, repeatedly stating that he first wants to speak to Graham about the matter.
“I should speak to Graham personally, before I answer any more specific questions,” Mendelson said.
When pressed by reporters about whether his hesitancy was consistent with his pledge to restore public trust in the government, Mendelson said there are “a lot of possibilities” about how the council could proceed on the issue.
Mendelson added that the ethics board could decide to launch an investigation into the matter even without a formal request from the council.
“Mr. Spagnoletti is capable of picking this up on his own,” Mendelson said. “I have not spoken to Mr. Graham. I believe I owe him the courtesy of talking to him.”