The Metro board’s executive committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider whether to further reprimand Dorsey or seek his removal.
“I’m deeply embarrassed and disappointed,” said Dorsey, 48, a Democrat who serves on the Arlington County Board. “My behavior and contributions, and performance of my public service, has never been compromised.”
Dorsey was forced by the Metro board in November to give up his finance committee chairmanship and to pledge to return his first-ever donation from the Amalgamated Transit Union, whose local represents about 13,000 Metro workers.
The board formally reprimanded Dorsey, saying it was inappropriate for him to take money from the union for his Arlington board reelection campaign. Dorsey was required to report the June 21 donation within 10 days but did not report it until Oct. 30, which he called “an oversight.”
The ethics lapse came months after Jack Evans, then a D.C. Council member, resigned from the Metro board due to a separate ethics investigation, which found he was receiving money from a parking company that does business with Metro.
Paul Smedberg, the Metro board chairman, said that although Dorsey has recused himself from Metro business involving the union since November, “the executive committee will meet in executive session since the remedy has not been satisfied.”
“It’s my intention to protect the integrity of the board,” Smedberg said.
During the public comment period of a Jan. 25 meeting of the Arlington board, a former political opponent of Dorsey’s asked whether he had refunded the donation, noting that his Dec. 31 campaign finance report did not list any such expenditure.
Dorsey replied that he had written a check to the union before the end of 2019, but it had not been cashed.
Union officials told The Washington Post they never received the check.
Dorsey said in an interview Wednesday that the check may have been lost and that it would have bounced anyway because some donations he had solicited did not come through.
He would not identify the donors who had pledged money and said he did not think he had to list the expenditure until the check was cashed.
But state Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper pointed to Section 6.1 of the state code, which says, “The report must list the expenditures in order by the date that the expenditure was made (earliest first). It is not acceptable to report the expenditure on the date that the expenditure cleared the bank account.”
Another section, 3.4, says contributions should be reported when received.
The state Department of Elections has no enforcement power, Piper said, adding that individuals can refer alleged violations of campaign finance law “to the attorney for the commonwealth of the locality in which the candidate resides.”
Dorsey’s campaign filing showed $3,298 in his account as of Dec. 31.
During his reelection campaign, one of his largest expenditures was $8,000 paid last summer to his wife, Rachel J. Feldman, a graphic designer who designed his campaign literature and also managed his campaign.
Dorsey has served on the Metro board since 2016. He was appointed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission in 2018 to be Virginia’s voting member.
He said he asked his fellow Arlington board member Katie Cristol (D), who chairs the NVTC, to appoint a replacement for him, a request that Cristol verified.
She said Matt Letourneau, currently the alternate for the Virginia delegation, would act as the voting member if Dorsey leaves the board. The NVTC could make a new appointment at its March 5 meeting.
Since Nov. 7, Dorsey has missed eight of 14 Metro meetings and recused himself from three committee meetings where budget preparations were discussed.
The ATU donation came at a time when Dorsey was facing personal financial difficulties. His family’s home was threatened with foreclosure after he fell behind in his mortgage and accrued tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
He filed a petition for personal bankruptcy in October, and said the cause of the debt was a drop in his income after he gave up some outside employment to focus on board work.
As a member of the county board, Dorsey makes $55,147 per year; he said he brings in another $50,000 as a communications and policy consultant.
He said his personal financial challenges are separate from any mistakes he may have made in his professional responsibilities.
“The initial error of not reporting the donation is on me; it’s my fault,” he said. “But I’m sorry it has been conflated with [the bankruptcy].”
Dorsey is widely respected by his colleagues for his work on both the county board and the Metro board.
After Audrey Clement, a frequent candidate who sought a board seat last year, complained that Dorsey had yet to repay the union donation, Arlington board Chair Libby Garvey (D) said Dorsey gives “incredibly good service to us.”
“We are lucky here in Arlington, the region is lucky, and the state is lucky that we have Mr. Dorsey on the WMATA board,” Garvey said at the Jan. 25 meeting. “He is an excellent board member and provides outstanding service at no small cost to himself. We really appreciate his work.”