A former city lawyer charged with obstructing an ethics violations investigation involving the top judge at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings has admitted guilt to some of the charges and agreed to testify against the top judge when her ethics hearing begins Monday.
Kiyo Oden Tyson, the former general counsel for the agency, reached an agreement with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability by which she admitted to three violations of the District’s code of conduct and will pay a $12,000 fine — a $4,000 fine per violation, according to a negotiated disposition made public by the board Thursday. But more important to the long-running probe, Ms. Tyson has agreed to testify against the judge, Mary Oates Walker.
Judge Walker hired Ms. Tyson for the city position in 2010, while the two women co-owned a separate property management business. According to the 19 counts of wrongdoing levied against Judge Walker, she sought in 2011 to steer a city contract worth $43,000 to Ms. Tyson’s husband. Once the matter came under investigation, the two lied to investigators looking into it, the board charged.
Ms. Tyson, who faced 10 counts of wrongdoing, has admitted to three of the counts under the board’s negotiated disposition. The violations include engaging in outside employment in conflict with the objective performance of work duties, engaging in action that would result in losing impartiality, and engaging in actions that would impede government efficiency, according to her agreement. The obstruction charges were among those the board dropped. No criminal charges have been brought in the case.
If Ms. Tyson does not cooperate in the proceedings against Judge Walker, she risks the ethics board reopening her case and potentially levying fines of up to $5,000 on each of the 10 counts, according to her agreement.
Ms. Tyson’s attorney, Billy Martin, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Both women had previously denied the allegations saying they were motivated by office politics and sought to have the case tossed out on the grounds that the board didn’t have the authority to bring ethics violations charges against employees of an independent city agency. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled otherwise. The D.C. Council has since adopted legislation that broadens the authority of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, which was established in 2012 to investigate ethics violations among D.C. government employees and elected officials, to include independent agencies.
Judge Walker’s attorney also could not be reached on Friday.
Beginning its work in 2004, the Office of Administrative Hearings considers appeals of administrative decisions from more than 40 D.C. agencies to ensure fairness and consistency in government decisions.
The current case comes after 15 of the 24 judges in the office in 2012 sent a letter to Mayor Vincent C. Gray accusing Judge Walker of nepotism and asking the mayor to investigate the contract awarded to Ms. Tyson’s husband.
Mr. Gray placed Judge Walker on administrative leave and recommended her firing. The interim head of the agency fired Ms. Tyson.