D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange was admonished by the city’s ethics board Thursday after it concluded that he had improperly interfered with health inspectors who were trying to close a rat-infested business.
Orange, who was ordered to attend ethics training, is the first council member to be admonished by the relatively new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
Four days before Christmas, Orange (D-At Large) showed up at Sam Wang Produce in Northeast Washington as a health inspector attempted to close it because of a rodent infestation.
According to board’s report, Orange asked that the Florida Avenue Market business be allowed to remain open. He then demanded to speak with the inspector’s supervisors, and the inspectors left the produce stand without shutting it. Inspectors returned later that day and issued the closure notice, which was rescinded the next day after the owner took steps to correct the problem.
The three-member ethics board found that Orange had violated the council’s code of conduct by abusing the “prestige of the office.”
“Because Mr. Orange’s conduct influenced the DOH personnel to leave the site of the business without issuing the notice of closure, allowing the business to continue to operate for several more hours, Mr. Orange knowingly used the prestige of his office or his public position for the private gain of that business,” the board ruled.
Less severe than a reprimand or censure, the admonishment was the product of a negotiated settlement between the board and Orange.
In an interview, Orange said he went to the market because he worried that 40 employees would be out of work over Christmas if it was shuttered. “In the past, this has been clearly acceptable constituent service, but now you have people looking at it a different way,” said Orange, who agreed “not to engage in such conduct in the future.”
If he completes his ethics training, Orange can apply in six months to have the admonishment expunged from his record. “I am going to learn from this experience,” he said.