- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2002

A city official who helped force D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams to run a write-in re-election campaign this fall has not been reappointed to the Board of Elections and Ethics.
Critics said the D.C. Council's failure to confirm elections board member Stephen G. Callas by Dec. 2 was political payback for hamstringing Mr. Williams' Democratic primary campaign. Mr. Williams nominated Mr. Callas in June, a month before the elections board rejected the mayor's petitions for his re-election bid on the grounds that they contained forged signatures.
Williams spokesman Tony Bullock said the failure to reappoint Mr. Callas rests with council members, not the mayor's office.
"The council failed to act on the nomination. We don't know why," Mr. Bullock said. "They had months to take action. We are perplexed."
Mr. Bullock added that the mayor isn't offering guarantees that he will reappoint Mr. Callas.
City sources close to the issue said the mayor and his backers lobbied against Mr. Callas' reappointment, urging council member Vincent Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat and chairman of the Government Operations Committee, to continually delay confirmation hearings.
"It was payback," said one city official who asked not to be identified. "The mayor's aides have been reviewing names as potential replacements."
"There isn't any other explanation," said one source close to the ethics board. "One minute, Stephen Callas is qualified for a job he has already been doing; the next minute, he is not."
Mr. Orange did not return calls seeking comment.
Dorothy Brizill, who runs the watchdog group D.C. Watch, said the council was aware of the Dec. 2 deadline.
"I spoke to [Mr. Oranges] staff members, who admitted they were sent a memo reminding the committee the deadline was Dec. 2," she said.
"This wasn't one of those things that 'fell through the cracks.' Orange is close to the administration, and he and Williams found a way to kill the renomination and to take revenge for the Board of Elections' holding the mayor responsible for election fraud."
Mr. Orange's committee had approved Mr. Callas' renomination and decided to vote on it Dec. 3. The vote was tabled because a city ordinance requires the council to approve nominations within 90 days, and the deadline had expired.
Council members said they support Mr. Callas and that missing the deadline was a mistake.
"Council staff was unaware and made a mistake, rather than something intentional," said council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and a member of the committee. "In September, I sent a letter to the mayor urging him to move ahead with the confirmation. Now, we are urging the mayor to renominate him."
Mrs. Patterson said Mr. Callas will remain on the board for 18 months because the council will block any attempt to appoint someone else to the position. Board rules state that a member continues to serve until the council confirms a successor.
Mr. Callas was first nominated to the ethics board by Mayor Marion Barry in 1997 and was confirmed in 1998 for a three-year term. His appointment lapsed in July 2001, and Mr. Williams renominated him in June.
In July, the three-member board reviewed Mr. Williams' nominating petitions and found thousands of forged signatures. The board rejected the mayor's petitions and forced him to wage a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary, which Mr. Williams won overwhelmingly.
After the primary election, the board fined the mayor's campaign $277,100, the largest such fine in the city's history.
Knowledgeable sources said Mr. Callas initiated the board's rejection of Mr. Williams' petitions and first suggested the fine.
City sources said Mr. Williams also wants to replace ethics board member Jonda McFarland, whose term expired in July, and board Chairman Benjamin Wilson, whose term expires next summer. Council members and city activists said that would be a mistake.
"It looks too much like political retribution," said council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. "The mayor would be wise to quickly squash this issue and move forward with election reform."

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