- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

A potential new member of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission today said he will recuse himself from voting on all matters relating to the Washington Nationals because he is involved in a joint venture with one of the minority members of the team.

Benjamin M. Soto, who owns a title company in the city, told the D.C. Council’s Economic Development Committee that he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict, even though it would be unlikely that he’d profit financially from the relationship.

Councilmember Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, told Soto that he should consult the commission’s general counsel before making any decision about recusing himself, since issues relating to the Nationals are constantly coming before the board.

David Catania, Independent Democrat, however, said Soto should do more than just follow the letter of the law.

The Council committee is expected to approve Soto’s nomination to the board, along with that of Matthew Cutts, who will take over for Mark Tuohey as chair of the commission.

The committee is also expected to confirm Vince Morris, who recently served as a spokesman for former Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

A former journalist, Morris said he would push for the commission to be more open and transparent. He suggested moving board meetings to the evenings to allow more people to attend and placing more public documents online.

Morris was heavily involved in the debate over the financing and lease agreement for the Nationals new ballpark, and he said that should remain the commission’s top priority. But he also said he would support the development of more sports programs for children and upgrades to sports facilities for youth. That caught the attention of Evans, who cautioned that the commission has been moving too far away from its stated mission of bringing more sporting events to the city.

“This new mission of youth programs was not part of [the commission’s] mission, but they’ve had to take it on because other agencies haven’t,” Evans said.

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