A top official in the cabinet of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is under scrutiny for a second time by the D.C. inspector general, this time over allegations that she used her government staff for babysitting and acted inappropriately when dealing with private companies that included a client of her former lobbying firm, officials familiar with the matter said.
D.C. Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden, the subject of the latest investigation, featured prominently in a separate inspector-general probe last month. That investigation found that Snowden and other government officials received preferential treatment from then-D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who allowed them to circumvent the city’s school lottery.
Snowden’s involvement in another inspector-general case comes at an uncomfortable moment for Bowser, who is already coping with the fallout from multiple ethics probes that reach the top level of her administration, including the school-lottery scandal and a D.C. Council investigation of alleged contract steering that concluded earlier this week.
Snowden acknowledged the second investigation Thursday and said she has been questioned by officials working for D.C. Inspector General Daniel Lucas. She declined to comment on what they discussed, saying investigators told her not to disclose the information.
“I’m aware of an investigation. I don’t know when the report’s coming out, and I haven’t seen it,” she said. “I’ve been directed not to discuss anything that I was questioned about. I can’t talk about it until there’s a final report, so when I get that, I’ll be delighted to talk to you about it.”
A current and a former city official familiar with the matter said the conduct under investigation took place in 2015, not long after Bowser appointed Snowden as her top deputy for workforce and small-business development and chief liaison to impoverished neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss a pending investigation, said the inspector general is examining allegations that Snowden used her staff for child care in and outside her office, including making an intern babysit her son on at least one occasion.
The investigators are also seeking to determine whether Snowden violated city ethics rules when dealing with private companies as deputy mayor, the officials said. Among those companies is Google, a client of the Raben Group, the public-affairs and lobbying firm where Snowden worked before joining city government. It is not clear what aspects of Snowden’s relationships with the companies are being examined.
A spokeswoman at the Raben Group declined to comment, saying the company was not aware of the investigation until Friday afternoon and was still learning about the matter. Google officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The accounts of the current and former city officials are amplified in a letter D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) wrote to Lucas.
In the May 17 letter, obtained by The Washington Post, Mendelson wrote he had “heard from several sources” that investigators had “questioned a number of people regarding allegations that Ms. Snowden attempted to secure business for former clients” and “used a government car for personal business,” in addition to the babysitting allegation.
Mendelson’s letter asked that the investigation be made public when it is complete.
Deputy Inspector General for Business Management Jaime Yarussi declined to comment, saying the office cannot confirm or discuss pending investigations. At the conclusion of a probe, the inspector general typically produces a report that is circulated to the mayor and council members and often made public.
Bowser spokeswoman LaToya Foster declined to comment on the specifics of the case, because it is ongoing.
“The administration always cooperates fully with the Office of the Inspector General,” Foster said in a statement. “However, we do not comment on our direct interactions with the Inspector General. The deputy mayor and her staff have received both standard and additional ethics training in 2015, 2016 and 2017.”
The latest investigation adds to the cloud that has been building around Bowser’s cabinet amid a series of ethics probes over the past two months.
Last month, The Post reported that a confidential inspector general’s report found Snowden and D.C. City Administrator Rashad M. Young were among a select group of government officials whose children were placed directly into coveted public schools by Henderson, skirting the rules of the notoriously competitive school lottery.
Earlier this week, a D.C. Council committee voted to release evidence from a months-long investigation into whether mayoral officials tried to steer millions of dollars in contracts to a political donor while firing city employees who stood in the way.
The committee’s chairwoman, council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), released a report alleging that Young had acted to benefit the contractor, Fort Myer Construction. Cheh also said there is evidence that a District employee illegally leaked information to Fort Myer about a competitor’s bid. She referred her findings to the inspector general’s office, which is reviewing them.
Young said he had not tried to favor Fort Myer and denied that he did anything improper by intervening in the contracting process, saying he simply intended to ensure that it was conducted fairly.
Bowser said Cheh’s suggestion that an illegal leak of information had taken place was a “wild accusation” that she did not plan to follow up on.