- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2012

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday he owes fellow city lawmaker Jim Graham the “courtesy” of a sit-down meeting to discuss a recent report that claims Mr. Graham violated rules of conduct while representing the District on the Metro board in 2008.

Mr. Mendelson, a Democrat, noted that an investigation by the Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft law firm delved into contract negotiations related to Mr. Graham’s tenure on the Metro Board of Directors and not his work on the council. Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, is no longer on the Metro board.

“I have not talked to Mr. Graham,” Mr. Mendelson said at a press briefing to discuss Tuesday’s legislative session. “I have not had a chance to sit down with him since that report came out only last week, and I need to do that before I respond to any more specific questions.”

Those questions, posed by reporters, include whether to refer the case to the newly created D.C. Board of Ethics.

A report released Thursday said there is evidence Mr. Graham asked Warren C. Williams, a principal of Banneker Ventures, to stand down from his bid to develop property along Florida Avenue in early 2008 — a deal under consideration by 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 charge in May 2010.

The investigation found Mr. Graham “pitted the interests of the Council of the District of Columbia against the interests of Metro, and thereby unnecessarily created a conflict of interest, or, at the least, the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

Mr. Graham has disputed the investigation’s findings.

“There is no suggestion in the report that any law was broken, or any crime committed, or that there was any unlawful financial interest. … The report turns on a single statement allegedly about a trade for the Metro contract for the lottery contract, allegedly made by me in my office on May 29, 2008. But the report has inconsistent findings and conclusions on whether that statement was made, and also as to the content of the statement,” Mr. Graham said in his formal response.

He also pointed to a section of the investigation’s report that noted the Metro board did not have clear rules in place to govern the appropriate way for members to meet with developers.

“I was called upon to decide upon the qualification of an applicant,” Mr. Graham said in his response. “In my view, and others agreed, they were sorely lacking.”

Going forward, Mr. Mendelson said it is not solely his responsibility to refer the issue to the ethics board, a body created last year through comprehensive ethics reform and chaired by former D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti.

“There’s nothing that says I have to send it to him,” Mr. Mendelson said Monday, when pressed on the issue by a Washington Examiner columnist after the briefing. “Mr. Spagnoletti is free to do something on his own. This is not a secret, this investigation.”

Mr. Mendelson said there are “a lot of possibilities” in terms of how he should address the unflattering report about Mr. Graham.

“I owe him a courtesy of talking to him,” he said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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