D.C. Council reprimands Graham

Cites improper use of his influence on city lottery contract

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The D.C. Council voted 11-2 Monday to reprimand one of its own members based on reports that concluded he acted inappropriately by influencing the city’s lottery contract.

“Let me begin by saying that I do not relish this situation,” council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in opening remarks before introducing a resolution that accused Mr. Graham of “affecting adversely the confidence in the public in the integrity of the government.”

He called it an “uncomfortable day” for the council and said such matters distract lawmakers from important issues of policy, noting that a situation has to be “extraordinary” before the council takes such action.

The reprimand stemmed from multiple reports concluding that Mr. Graham asked Warren C. Williams, a principal of Banneker Ventures, to stand down from his bid to develop property along Florida Avenue Northwest in early 2008 — a deal under consideration by the Metro Board of Directors. Mr. Graham at the time represented the District on the Metro board. In exchange, the council member said he would be more inclined to support Mr. Williams’ simultaneous bid for the D.C. Lottery contract, according to the report.

The Washington Times first reported the accusation in 2010.

Marion Barry spoke repeatedly to say that Mr. Graham’s due process rights had been violated and that he should have been granted a hearing before an impartial body at which he could defend himself. He spoke at length about his own experience in 2010, when he was censured by the council and removed as chairman of the Housing and Workforce Development Committee after reports that he steered a city contract to a woman he had been involved with personally.

“Every member of this council may be subject to this,” said Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat who voted against the resolution along with Mr. Graham.

Mr. Barry also said the action was motivated by unfavorable news reports and noted that several council members who supported it plan to run for mayor.

“This is a political decision,” he said.

Council member Tommy Wells, who is exploring a bid for mayor, said the incident taints public confidence in the city’s contracting process. He said the public should not have to think that the District is a place “where in backrooms we say who wins and who loses.”

“This action really may not go far enough,” the Ward 6 Democrat said.

Mr. Graham did not speak before the vote, but he did comment during debate over a resolution to remove alcoholic beverage regulation from his oversight.

The Ward 1 Democrat thanked Mr. Mendelson for his handling of the matter but objected to the chairman’s call to lessen his responsibilities, saying it appeared to stem solely from a “sense of punishment” and that there was “no relationship between this reprimand action and my oversight of alcohol.”

That resolution passed 10-2, with council member Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, voting “present.”

Mr. Graham, who all along has insisted he did nothing wrong, said he could have assembled enough support to push for the matter to be investigated further but that, in the end, it would be better for the council to get back to its more pressing responsibilities.

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