- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frederick Butler says he is ready to hit the pavement once D.C. voters get the green light next week to start the recall process against Mayor Vincent C. Gray and other city politicians finishing a tumultuous year.

The city’s Board of Elections and Ethics on Tuesday will begin accepting recall notices for D.C. officials elected in 2010, and Mr. Butler says he has a network of volunteers ready to follow through on his efforts.

“It’s something I’ve been doing under the radar for a while,” said Mr. Butler, a Ward 6 resident. “I’m not an anti-Gray person. He’s not getting the job done.”

Recall rumblings are one thing, but a lot of shoe leather goes into putting a sitting official’s job on the line. In fact, no citywide or wardwide recall effort has made it to the ballot in the District, according to the elections board.

Efforts to do the unprecedented could indicate whether 2011 was a banner year for ethical lapses and missteps among D.C. officials or whether city residents are scandal-weary and would rather move on than engage in the divisive recall process.

A year ago, Mr. Gray swept into office in decisive fashion and then saw his political mandate crumble among allegations of nepotism and “fast-track” hiring in his Cabinet, and allegations by a minor mayoral candidate that he was paid to bash incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty during last year’s campaign.

Investigations into the allegations have fallen short of incriminating the mayor, and the swirl of intrigue has largely faded. But a pair of personnel misfires late in the year that forced him to scuttle his nominees for deputy chief of staff and for chairman of the elections and ethics board were reminiscent of early stumbles, and Mr. Gray’s popularity has plummeted. Meanwhile, the council has had to stave off allegations that it lacked an ethical compass and could not police itself.

Besides the mayor, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown and council member Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, face ongoing federal probes.

None of the targeted officials has admitted to any criminal liability or faced indictment, and they are forging ahead with their political agendas as the executive branch and the council attempt to put a rough year behind them through recently passed ethics legislation.

“They haven’t cleared the air at all,” Mr. Butler said, calling the recent ethics bill a public relations move that “really, to be quite honest, does nothing.”

The legislation crafted by council member Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, removes the prohibition on recall efforts in the first or fourth year of an elected official’s term if the newly established Board of Ethics and Government Accountability finds an elected official violated the city government’s code of conduct. The bill, which is awaiting the mayor’s signature and congressional review, also expels an elected official for a felony conviction rather than the current law requiring incarceration and sets up a system to impeach a council member.

Mr. Gray’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said the administration is not aware of any recall effort against him.

“Regardless, the mayor is not focused on it,” he added. “He is focused on doing the job he was elected to do.”

Recall process

An elections board spokeswoman said the board has fielded calls and inquiries about the recall process in recent weeks. A recall election for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B04 is scheduled for Feb. 28, but no such effort against a city or ward official has ever gotten near that stage, she said.

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