Attachment to themail
The Latest BOEE Nominee: Mital Gandhi
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
On November 30, 2009, Mayor Adrian Fenty nominated Mital Gandhi to fill a vacant seat on the three-member Board of Elections and Ethics (PR 16-626). When the city council failed to approve the nomination within ninety days, it was deemed “disapproved without Council action” on March 25, 2010. Fenty then reappointed Gandhi (PR 18-792). The Council Committee on Government Operations held a hearing on his confirmation on April 26. Gandhi is a Republican; the other two BOEE members are Democrats, and by law not all three members of the Board can be members of the same political party. Until recently, he was a resident of Ward 3, but he now resides in Ward 2. He is currently a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, having been appointed by Fenty in March 2007. Gandhi was also an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC 3F05); until he moved.
A critical review of Gandhi’s background raises serious concerns that he does not meet the qualifications for appointment to the BOEE that are detailed in the Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009: “When appointing a member of the Board, the Mayor and Council shall consider whether the individual possesses the integrity, independence, and public credibility and whether the individual has particular knowledge, training, or experience in government ethics or in elections law and procedure.” Traditionally, members of the BOEE have demonstrated their political independence by not being involved in partisan politics and by staying at arms length from elected officials. However, Gandhi contributed $200 to Mayor Fenty’s 2006 campaign and $300 to the mayor’s current 2010 campaign committee. He also made campaign contributions to Councilmembers Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser and to council candidate Patrick Mara. He also, although he didn’t reveal it in his committee questionnaire or in his confirmation testimony, was a principal organizer of a meet-and-greet fundraiser for Fenty’s campaign on August 27, 2009, at the W Hotel (http://tinyurl.com/2a22slf). When he was asked at his April 20 hearing whether he would recuse himself from matters before the BOEE involving an individual to whom he was a contributor, Gandhi replied that he didn’t see a need to recuse himself from a matter unless someone involved was a childhood friend, or had been a friend for decades. Gandhi also acknowledged that he approached the mayor and discussed his interest in being appointed to the BOEE. Within three months of the August fundraiser that he hosted for Fenty, the mayor nominated him to the BOEE. Gandhi’s recent political and fundraising activities raise concerns that he will not be a fair and impartial member of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics.
Since March 2007, Gandhi has been a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which raises a number of serious issues regarding his appointment to the BOEE. First, the regular monthly meeting of the BOEE is on the first Wednesday of each month, which conflicts with the hearings of the ABC, that are also held on Wednesdays. Second, the Omnibus Election Reform Act specifically precludes anyone from serving on the BOEE board who holds any “other paid office or employment in the District government.” Gandhi receives a stipend of $45 an hour for serving on the ABC Board. At his confirmation hearing, Gandhi refused to accept Mary Cheh’s suggestion that he resign from the ABC Board, instead mistakenly believing he could deal with the prohibition by not accepting the stipend. As an ABC Board member, Gandhi has the worst attendance record of any board member. In a review of incomplete attendance records for 105 ABC Board meeting from 2008 through 2010, I found that Gandhi didn’t attend 29 percent of the meetings (31 out of 105), arrived more than two hours late or departed more than two hours early from 18 percent of the meetings (19 out of 105), and arrived more than one hour late or departed more than one hour early from 13 percent of the meetings (14 out of 105).
When questioned at his confirmation hearing about his attendance at Advisory Neighborhood Council meetings in his three terms between 2004 and April 2009, Gandhi said only that he believed he had attended “more than half the meetings.” In addition, in 2006, Gandhi’s nominating petitions for his ANC seat were challenged by a fellow member of his ANC, Karen Perry. ANC nomination petitions require only twenty-five signatures; Gandhi collected only thirty, and Perry challenged ten of them. The challenge was upheld in a preliminary review by the DC Registrar of Voters and was referred to the BOEE’s Office of General Counsel. A prehearing on the matter was scheduled, but Gandhi didn’t appear. When he was reached by telephone, Gandhi said that he would withdraw the petitions. (He subsequently ran as a write-in candidate in an uncontested race, and won the seat.) In her challenge, Perry questioned the ten signatures because the voters were either not registered voters in the District or not residents of Gandhi’s single-member district. My review of the petition sheets also reveals a number of signatures that appear to be in the same handwriting, and that could have been examined for forgery. At his confirmation hearing on April 26, Gandhi claimed to have only a vague memory of the incident, but placed the blame on the individuals whom he said signed the petition while “falsely” claiming to be registered voters in his single member district. (All but two of the signatories on the petition sheets list Gandhi’s apartment building as their home address. Another petition signer gave a town in upstate New York as a legal address.)
Finally, serious questions must be raised regarding Mr. Gandhi’s fitness for this important assignment, since six lawsuits have been filed against him in DC Superior Court (Landlord and Tenant Court and Small Claims Court) in recent years, involving his failure to pay his rent. The cases are:
Why the Council must disapprove Mital Gandhi’s nomination to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics:
7. Active in partisan politics.
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