- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2000

D.C. personnel regulations require employees to avoid actions that might result in or even create the appearance of affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity in government. The regulation is part of what is called the Standards of Conduct and applies whether or not that action is expressly prohibited. The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance ruled June 16 that Mayor Anthony Williams violated that rule by using employees, resources or facilities by trying to influence the June 27 referendum on the Board of Education and ordered him to terminate all such actions immediately. Other city employees violated the same rule, but were not cited because no complaints were filed although a broader inquiry into their actions is in order.

More complaints will be filed against Mr. Williams and others who want to revise the D.C. Charter to allow for the creation of a hybrid school board. If approved, the referendum would decrease the number of board members from 11 to nine, and allow the mayor to appoint four members and voters to elect five, including the president, who would run citywide (currently the president is the exclusive choice of the 11 members). It would also merge eight city wards into four school districts.

The citizenry owes a measure of gratitude to Dorothy Brizill, executive director of D.C. Watch, a government watchdog organization that is routinely in and out of favor with politicians, for filing the complaint with the D.C. Board of Elections and the Ethics Office of Campaign Finance. Her filing came one day after Mr. Williams and numerous employees held a press conference to kick off the campaign. They included Peggy Armstrong, the mayor's press secretary, Bill Rice, a former reporter who now is a public information officer for public works, and Beverly Rivers, secretary of the District of Columbia. The press conference was held at a public school, in clear violation of personnel regulations, organized by city workers in violation of regulations and attended by city workers on government time, also a violation.

Mr. Williams has said that "we have already . . . begun compliance with the full letter and spirit of opinion." That perhaps is true. But Mrs. Brizill alleges further violations occurred at a June 13 strategy meeting. Almost all of the attendees at this meeting were senior D.C. government employees, as well as a political consultant to the Williams administration. While their attendance at this meeting was after business hours, some employees used official government automobiles after business hours to drive to and from the meeting.

Part of the irony here is that Mr. Williams' campaign slogan, "Accountability Now," urges voters to follow his lead. How misleading.

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