- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Robert R. Rigsby, chief of the District's Office of Corporation Counsel, has a considerable legal arsenal at his disposal. He has a $48 million budget, 186 lawyers and a support staff of nearly 400 employees. His goals this year, as stated by the mayor, are to increase child-support collections by 7 percent, appeal a U.S. Court decision on D.C. voting rights, win 90 percent of litigation cases and achieve 35 percent of cases with child-support orders. Interestingly, one of Mr. Rigsby's most publicized cases involves neither child support nor voting rights.
It seems Mr. Rigsby mishandled that case from the very beginning. It began in May, when the mayor's chief of staff, Abdusalam Omer, sought the corporation counsel's advice on the lawfulness of allowing city workers to campaign for the referendum to change the school board. Mr. Rigsby's office responded yes, and Mayor Williams kicked off his "campaign" on June 6 at a D.C. school with city workers on hand. DCWatch, an on-line magazine, filed a complaint with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. The D.C. Office of Campaign finance subsequently ruled the mayor violated personnel regulations that require employees "to avoid action … which might result in, or create the appearance of affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of government." Officials ordered Mr. Williams "to immediately terminate all action involving the use of the resources of the District of Columbia government to influence the outcome of the June 27, 2000 election on the Charter Amendment."
The case, however, did not end there. Mr. Rigsby appealed, saying the ruling infringed upon the mayor's First Amendment rights. Ethics officials upheld the initial ruling on Sept. 6, and Mr. Rigsby is considering advising Mr. Williams to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Now the question becomes one of mayoral priorities, not mayoral prerogatives. In other words, is another appeal the absolute best use of the corporation counsel's considerable resources?

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