After a wait approaching three years, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics might soon be back to its full complement of three members.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) on Wednesday nominated a fresh trio to the board, including potentially the first non-Democrat to sit on the board since February 2009. But questions were immediately raised about the eligibility of Gray’s pick for the board’s chairman, Robert L. Mallett.
Mallett , who was city administrator and deputy mayor for operations during Sharon Pratt’s tenure as mayor and later was a deputy secretary of commerce, recently moved back to the District after working as a pharmaceutical executive in New York since 2001.
At a news conference Wednesday announcing the selections, civic activist Dorothy Brizill pointed to a long-standing law requiring board members to have “resided in the District continuously since the beginning of the 3-year period ending on the day he or she is appointed.”
Mallett, a senior executive for UnitedHealth Group, noted that he lived in the District for 17 years before moving to New York. A Gray spokeswoman, Linda Wharton Boyd, said the administration was “exploring a number of options, including seeking a waiver.”
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who authored a 2009 rewrite of elections law, later said the three-year provision is intended to ensure that nominees have “some commitment and familiarity with the District.”
“If he’s a quality candidate, and that’s the only thing that would inhibit him,” she said, “I think that person would have a case” for an exception.
But Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), whose government operations committee will be reviewing the nominations, said she was not inclined to excuse Mallett from the same laws he will be charged with enforcing.
“I regard this position as one of the most pivotal in ensuring and enforcing the ethics laws in the District of Columbia,” said Bowser, who added that she “reached out more than once” to Gray’s staff about the qualifications of potential board appointees.
The other nominees are Devarieste Curry, a lawyer with McLeod, Watkinson & Miller and vice chairwoman of the D.C. Bar Association’s legal ethics committee, and Stephen I. Danzansky, a retired lawyer who was an aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The appointment of Danzansky, as a Republican, is a move toward ending months of criticism about the board’s makeup. Outgoing members Togo D. West Jr., the chairman, and Charles Lowery are Democrats.