Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham (D) was hit with a reprimand by his council colleagues and stripped of his power to oversee liquor and alcohol licenses as head of the Human Services Committee, in a vote of 11-2 during the final week of February. The council decided to punish Graham for his past actions of interfering with a Metro development deal and the city’s lottery contract.
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry (D) was the only member to vote against the reprimand, having been censured in 2010 and stripped of his of his committee for his role in a personal services contract. The council did not censure Graham as they did Barry. Graham becomes the second member, after Barry, to face a public rebuke for actions since the council’s home rule charter. At-Large councilmember Vincent Orange (D) abstained. After the vote Graham said, It’s over and we can move forward.”
For months Graham has maintained that he did nothing wrong, but the city’s Board of Ethics and Accountability has found that he did violate the city’s code of conduct, by attempting to influence the lottery contract in 2009.
The reprimand moved Graham’s oversight of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration from the Human Services Committee, which he chairs, to the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee, chaired by Vincent Orange. Graham has oversight of the board for the past 8 years.
In early 2008, Graham asked businessman Warren C. Williams, a principal of Banneker Ventures, to stand down his bid to develop property along Florida Ave. NW.— a deal under consideration by the Metro Board of Directors, which Graham sat on representing the District. Graham told Mr. Williams that he would be inclined to support him for his bid of the D.C. Lottery contract in exchange for standing down his bid for the Florida Ave. project.
A reprimand is the least serious action the council can take against a member. It must be approved by a simple majority and carries no punishment. Barry, citing his 2010 censure was vocal during the hearing about Graham’s reprimand saying, “Every council member may be subject to this” in the future.
Chairman Phil Mendelson said, “The issue is public’s trust in government…not with councilmembers, but between potential contractors. There is no question the public’s confidence has been harmed.”