- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Wednesday he is set to sign the comprehensive ethics bill approved by the D.C. Council as an effort to close legal loopholes and set a new tone at city hall.

“I don’t see any reason not to at this juncture,” he said, adding that he will use the holiday period to review last-minute changes to the legislation approved by the council Tuesday and make sure it is consistent with the priorities he set forth in a letter sent to lawmakers in late October.

“I believe that the bill does fulfill what we thought was important in terms of those principles,” he said. “So as a general statement at this stage, I’m happy with where it goes.”

The legislation, crafted by council member Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, would set up a three-member Board of Ethics to police and sanction elected officials, enhance financial disclosure requirements and reduce from $80,000 to $40,000 the amount of money council members or the mayor can raise for constituent services funds, which are composed of leftover campaign dollars and private donations.

The council approved the legislation 12-1, with council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, providing the dissenting vote. Mr. Wells unsuccessfully called for sunshine provisions that would have required enhanced disclosure of city contractors who donate to candidates and of parent entities that donate to political campaigns multiple times through limited-liability companies.

Among his priorities, the mayor emphasized clarity in the city’s laws, resources and subpoena power for enforcement agencies and authorization for the D.C. attorney general to sanction ethical violations through civil suits when appropriate.

Mr. Gray also wanted to strengthen the city’s financial-disclosure system, address potential conflicts of interest in post-government employment and “place significant restrictions on constituent services accounts.”

The council appeared to meet his goals, although it slackened restrictions in Ms. Bowser’s original bill by allowing elected officials to purchase season sports or cultural tickets through their constituent services funds.

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