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June 30, 2010

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The Latest BOEE Nominee: Mital Gandhi
A Memorandum to Councilmembers, June 28, 2010

Dorothy Brizill,

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 ( 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:

2005 SC2 008305
2006 LTB 020462
2007 LTB 009712
2007 SC2 008536
2008 LTB 032651
2008 SC3 002074


Why the Council must disapprove Mital Gandhi’s nomination to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics:

1. Gandhi will not be a fair and impartial member of the BOEE.
Gandhi co-hosted a meet-and-greet fundraising for Mayor Fenty in 2009 and, in testimony he has stated that he will not recuse himself at the BOEE on matters involving candidates to whom he has made a contribution or assisted in fundraising.

2. Fraudulent signature on his ANC petition.
In 2006, Gandhi submitted petitions to run for his ANC seat (ANC 3F03) that contained the names of non-DC voters as well as forged signatures. After a challenge to these petitions, Gandhi withdrew the petitions and ran as a write-in candidate.

3. Poor attendance at ABC Board meetings.
As a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Gandhi has the worst attendance record of any board member. Since 2008 he attended only 29 percent of the ABC Board meetings.

4. Poor attendance at ANC meetings.
As an ANC Commissioner since 2004 (until he recently moved to another ward), Gandhi, in his own words, attended only “more than half the meetings.”

5. Conflict between ABC and BOEE Board meetings.
At his confirmation hearing, Gandhi indicated that he would not resign from his seat on the ABC Board, which meets on the same day — Wednesday — as the BOEE.

6. Lawsuits.
Concerns raised regarding the six lawsuits filed against Gandhi in recent years involving his failure to pay his rent.

7. Active in partisan politics.
Although the law requires the DC BOEE to have no more than two members from any one political party, its members have traditionally not been actively engaged in partisan political activity, since that would give an appearance of partiality. Gandhi, however, is and continues to be not just an active member of the DC Republican Committee, but an official of the party. On February 12, 2008, he ran for and was elected to the governing body of the DC Republican Committee. In December 2009, following his nomination to the BOEE board by Mayor Fenty, Robert J. Kabel, Chairman of the DC Republican Committee, sent a letter to Mayor Fenty praising his selection of Gandhi and noting that, “He has a long history in District politics and involvement with the local Republican Party.” However, Gandhi did not reveal in the resume that he submitted to the Council Committee that he was a party official, and neither he nor any of his supportive witnesses from the Republican Party revealed in their oral testimonies that Gandhi was a Republican party official.


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