The Washington Post

Historic Board vote set despite D.C. ethics inquiry

Council member Anita Bonds (D-At large). Her chief of staff, Charles Wilson, is the subject of an ethics complaint, but the council plans to move ahead with his nomination for the Historic Preservation Board. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday the council will vote this week whether to confirm Charles Wilson to the Historic Preservation Board, despite an ethics board complaint about the council office that he works in.

Mendelson (D) said he’s confident that Wilson, chief of staff to Council member Anita Bonds (D-At large), will be cleared of allegations that Bonds’ council office improperly intermingled political and government resources. Mendelson will ask the council to confirm Wilson on Tuesday.

“It’s a relatively minor allegation and I’ve been told it’s unfounded, but being investigated,” Mendelson said. “It’s an unsubstantiated allegation.”

According to council staffers familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because it’s a personnel issue, the complaint involves an allegation that Bonds’ senior staff in January prepared an agenda for a staff meeting that included a discussion of ways to get Bonds reelected.

After someone complained, Wilson modified the agenda, and the issue did not come up at the staff meeting, officials said.

V. David Zvenyach, the council’s general counsel, learned about the matter and requested that Wilson, an accountant in his first month on the job at the council, to accelerate his plans to attend mandatory council staffer ethics training, officials said.

About a month later, Bonds dismissed Cierra Robinson as her special assistant following a series of office disputes, officials said.

Last month, the Washington City Paper reported that Robinson filed a complaint to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability questioning the circumstances surrounding her dismissal. The paper reported Robinson may have been fired after being asked to work on Bonds campaign.

On Feb. 15, Mendelson sent a letter to Robert J. Spagnoletti, chairman of the ethics board, supporting an investigation but cautioning he did not think any council rules were violated.

“After a preliminary review of the matter, it appears that the termination was not the result of an effort to retaliate against the employee,” Mendelson wrote. “However, the council would benefit from a fuller inquiry by the board.”

In an interview, Bonds declined to comment on the matter, calling it a “personnel issue,” but denied the matter is related to her reelection campaign.

“It was not at all related to politics or any of that,” said Bonds, adding her office adheres to the highest ethical standards. “When you are in an office, there are expectations as a staffer that you have to do your job.”

Wilson also declined comment.

At Mendelson’s monthly press conference, activist Dorothy Brizill and columnist Jonetta Rose Barras aggressively questioned him about why he was moving forward with Wilson’s nomination before the ethics board completes its investigation into the matter.

Mendelson argued it would be unfair and set a bad precedent to hold up a nomination based on an allegation.

“An unsubstantiated allegation is not the same as a fact,” Mendelson 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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