The District’s chief advocate for utility ratepayers has agreed to pay $5,000 to settle an ethics investigation for using government staff to perform personal tasks such as booking hair and nail appointments.
Sandra Mattavous-Frye, director of the D.C. Office of the People’s Counsel, will pay her fine in 12 biweekly installments of $416.66 and attend ethics training. The D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability approved the settlement Thursday.
According to the ethics agency’s report, Mattavous-Frye repeatedly directed her executive assistant to perform tasks that had nothing to do with government business between 2015 and 2017.
Those tasks included arranging her travel, helping her file taxes and taking her car for emissions tests. The investigation also found Mattavous-Frye used her government email to communicate with a bank employee about refinancing a personal mortgage.
Investigators say Mattavous-Frye “expressed remorse” for her actions and agreed to settle the matter. She also said the executive assistant’s allegations came after she was passed over for a promotion and raise, according to the report.
Mattavous-Frye declined an interview request but said in a prepared statement that she took “full responsibility” for her actions.
“I agreed to the negotiated settlement in order to move forward and continue serving the utility consumers of the District of Columbia,” Mattavous-Frye said. “The matter is now behind me and I am laser-focused on the work of the Office of the People’s Counsel.”
Her office is tasked with advocating on behalf of utility customers. Mattavous-Frye unsuccessfully challenged the merger of Pepco Holdings and Exelon in 2016, which critics said would lead to higher electricity bills. She has also cautioned against higher ratepayer costs as part of the city’s ambitious goal to shift to entirely renewable power sources by 2032.
The D.C. Council last month reappointed Mattavous-Frye for a third four-year term.
A spokesman for council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), whose committee oversees Mattavous-Frye’s agency, said his office was not informed about the ethics investigation while she was up for reappointment.
Mattavous-Frye said she did not tell the council about the ethics investigation because “at the time of the council confirmation, the matter was still a confidential-personnel proceeding.”
In a similar case last year, a former top aide to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) agreed to pay a $3,000 fine to settle an ethics investigation into her use of government staff for babysitting.