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November 13, 2011

Social Shaming

Dear Shamers:

Be sure to see the detailed suggestions for ethics reform from DC for Democracy, below.

The people who have been talking about ethics reform over the past several months have been the usual suspects, those who usually focus on good government and ethics. But where have the powerful institutions in our city been, the groups that should be speaking out and putting pressure on the mayor and councilmembers to clean up city government? Let me name a few of them: the churches; the universities; the professional organizations of lawyers, doctors, accountants; the social service organizations. Of course, all of these groups can be compromised by the favors they seek from the government and the threats that government can wield against them, but still the silence from them has been astounding. Where are the resolutions of disapproval, the delegations from these groups to the Wilson Building? What is missing has been social pressure, the shaming both of the elected officials who have engaged in corrupt practices and those elected officials who have tolerated corruption by their inaction.

Gary Imhoff


Dorothy Brizill,

On Monday, November 14, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) will make nominating petitions available to candidates in the April 3, 2012, primary election in the District. Candidates will then have until January 4 to circulate the petitions and secure the requisite number of signatures (e.g., two thousand for an at-large candidate for the council and five hundred for a ward member of the council). Basic information on the 2012 election, including a candidate’s guide to ballot access, a calendar of important dates and deadlines, and a list of candidate, is posted and periodically updated at

As Gary noted in the last issue of themail, I was concerned about the campaign committee Sekou Biddle, an at-large council candidate, had filed with the DC Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) on November 21. On Thursday, November 10, I made a formal request for an investigation by OCF of Biddle’s committee registration, noting that, “the registration indicates that the committee does not have a chairman. Moreover, the only address that is given for the committee, 4401A Connecticut Avenue, NW, #105, Washington, DC 20008, is a postal box at a United Parcel Service store. As you know, both of these shortcomings in Biddle’s filing are violations of the District’s campaign finance laws and regulations. Moreover, while Biddle’s registration of his campaign committee is deficient, he has, nevertheless, embarked on an ambitious fundraising initiative.”


Auditing the Auditor, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

On Tuesday, November 15, the council’s Committee of the Whole (COW) will meet. While the agenda has not been posted on the council’s web site, it is widely believed that council chairman Kwame Brown will try to get the council to approve the appointment of Yolanda Branche as the District’s Auditor. As I have previously written in themail, Branche is not only not qualified, but she may have lied to the selection panel and embellished her qualifications. In summary:

1) The report by the DC Auditor search committee and a May 26 press release issued by Kwame Brown’s office noted that Branche was selected in large part because she was “an attorney admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.” However, after I confronted her with the fact that the DC Bar had indicated that her legal license had been suspended, she admitted that she “was not authorized to practice law in the District.”

2) On her resume, which she submitted to the DC Auditor search committee, and which was included in Brown’s May 26 press release, Branche falsely claimed that she was a District resident, and listed an address in the Fort Lincoln neighborhood in Ward 5. Shortly after being selected, Branche admitted to me that she was not a District resident and that, in fact, she did not become a District resident until mid-July.

3) Branche is not an auditor. The qualifications detailed in the position description developed by the DC Auditor search committee specify a “minimum of five years experience in governmental accounting and/or auditing” and “CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) or CGAP (Certified Government Auditing Professional) certification preferred.” Branche, however, was selected over other candidates who were more highly qualified, even though she has only been a senior analyst (not an auditor) at the Auditor’s office (since March 2008), and is neither CIA nor CGAP certified. Strangely, at her confirmation hearing on October 25, John Hill, the CEO of the Federal City Council and the former executive director of the Financial Control Board, tried to argue that because he is an auditor and because Branche had worked for him in administrative positions at four different organizations, she by implication had auditing experience.

While Kwame Brown announced Branche’s appointment to be DC Auditor on May 26, “effective June 1, 2011,” Branche’s confirmation hearing wasn’t held until October 25. The delay occurred in order to give Branche time to resolve some of the issues that had raised serious doubts about her selection as DC Auditor. For example, she used the additional time to renew her membership in the DC Bar, move into the District, and resolve outstanding tax obligations in Maryland. As I previously noted, “If the council is truly serious about addressing the culture of corruption that it so pervasive in the District government, then the office of the DC Auditor will and must play a pivotal role. Appointing Yolanda Branche, who has neither the required skills nor background for the position, and who lied on her resume to secure the position, is a step backward, not forward.”


Update on MLK Library “Assessment Project”
Ann Loikow,

The DC Public Library posted a notice at describing their project “in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement District” to engage the Urban Land Institute for $125,000 for five days work to “review and assess the value of the historic-designated Ludwig Mies van der Rohe building at 901 G Street, NW, which houses the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library and discuss how to leverage the value of the building the benefit of the District of Columbia.” This clearly says that Ginny Cooper and/or the Library Board want to develop the property. We are assured that a library (probably much smaller) named for Martin Luther King will still exist somewhere “downtown,” but not necessarily in this building.

The eight members of the ULI panel are all from out of town, five from California, one from Tennessee, and one from Texas. Most are developers or architects or planners for developers (including the VP of architecture and planning for Disney’s real estate development group in France, an adviser to NBC Universal on the master plan for its back lot development, and a consultant for real estate developers of urban mixed use, master planned residential and commercial land and multifamily apartments and senior housing). Another creates marketing programs for home builders. Only one has any experience as a librarian. Another was a project manager for construction of two libraries, and one is a historical architect with some experience in adaptive re-use.

Although the ULI panel is to consult with “stakeholders,” it is questionable how many citizens and real library patrons they will really consult. The public is invited to the presentation of their “findings and recommendations” (but not to comment!) on Friday, November 18, from 9-11 a.m. in the Great Hall of MLK Library. Buried in the notice is a sentence that the public “is also invited to share their thoughts about the use of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library building at the Library Board of trustees meeting on Wednesday, November 16, 6 p.m., at Southwest Neighborhood Library, 900 Wesley Place, SW.” You can find the list of the members of the Board of Library Trustees at It also makes interesting reading.

I hope many readers of the themail will attend the November 16 Library Board meeting and the November 18 “presentation” and call and write the council with their comments on this proposal. Why we are spending $125,000 of our hard earned tax money on this “study” when just a month or so ago the Library Board was going to close MLK Library on Sundays (the last library with Sunday hours) until public outcry lead to the mayor’s finding the money to keep it open. Somehow there is always money to promote “development” of our public properties while there is not enough money to operate them or keep them in good repair.

As many citizens testified five years ago, when Ms. Cooper and the Library Board tried to get rid of MLK Library, the big problems are inadequate maintenance and the need for updating old systems and the District’s lack of adequate facilities for the homeless so our libraries, whether they are brand new or old, become a place for people to go in the day when they have nowhere else to go. None of these reasons justify getting rid of Mies’ building. In addition, the mayor and counsel, as well as the Library Board, need to do their real homework and consult with the citizens of the District of Columbia first before they spend big dollars on disposing of public property, particularly iconic and important public properties such as our central library. Many public facilities are on valuable land because our forebears had the foresight to acquire the property in places best located to serve residents, and they are property we can not afford to replace.

This whole process just brings to mind the sorry saga of the Wilson Building and how we almost lost it to the Federal Government because the District Government didn’t properly maintain it. Let’s learn from history and maintain and renovate our landmark central library rather than sell our crown jewels for fast money.


DC for Democracy’s Proposal for Comprehensive Ethics Reform
Kesh Ladduwahetty,

We have all been dismayed by the dark cloud of scandal over the John A. Wilson building. Some may want to believe that this cloud rolled in just this past year with the allegations of nepotism, illegal use of campaign funds, misuse of city vehicles and public grant funds, etc. Such scandals make for a perfect storm that has ripped away whatever was left of any naïve faith that our laws are properly enforced. In fact, however, the District -- just like the fifty states and the federal government -- is threatened by something far more insidious: the pay-to-play culture of crony capitalism that allows the privileged few and the special interests to exert far more influence than their limited numbers would allow in a truly democratic system.

We must address both types of threats referred to above. First, we must prevent future scandals from engulfing the Wilson building by enforcing the laws already on the books. The Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) must be adequately staffed to audit campaign records and to initiate its own investigations. Its current staff of four auditors is clearly not sufficient. More importantly, enforcement of ethics statutes, which are currently scattered across multiple agencies, must be consolidated into a unified Ethics Code, as Ken McGhie of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) eloquently urged at the hearing on October 26. This unified and expanded ethics code would then be enforced by an independent ethics board consisting of members nominated by the mayor, council chair, and the Attorney General, as well as four members from outside of government nominated by labor, business, and community organizations. All would be subject to confirmation by the DC council.

Only an independent ethics board that is adequately staffed and funded would have the authority for broad oversight, could carry out the training of government personnel, including our elected officials, and could enforce ethical behavior by all personnel. Establishing and funding such a body will be an important test of the council’s seriousness about genuine ethics reform. As important as it is, the enforcement of existing laws alone will not solve the problem. The pay-to-play culture of crony capitalism is deeply engrained throughout our political system through the power of money. To curb its influence in our local government and politics, our proposals include the following: 1) ban political contributions by lobbyists and entities that do business with the District; 2) ban the bundling of campaign contributions, and reduce contribution limits for mayoral and council chair campaigns to $1,000; 3) attribute contributions of corporate affiliates and subsidiaries to the parent corporation for purposes of campaign contribution limits; 4) eliminate private donations, using public financing only, for transition committees, and limit donations for inaugural activities to one hundred dollars per individual or entity; 5) require reporting to OCF of independent expenditures related to political campaigns; 6) eliminate constituent services funds; 7) ban free or discounted legal services for elected officials, ban private donations for official travel (use public financing only), and ban public officials from receiving free or discounted prices not available to the general public for entertainment, sports events, etc.; 8) require full reporting to OCF of meetings between lobbyists and councilmembers.

Closely related to the pay-for-play culture is the potential abuse of power by elected officials in cases where there is a clear conflict of interest. To address this problem, we propose the following: require councilmembers to state on the record before consideration of legislation whether they have a conflict of interest and, if so, require that they recuse themselves; and ban outside employment for councilmembers beginning January 2014.

Finally, there must be accountability for those who have engaged in corrupt practices. Too often, only public officials pay the price for corruption, while the private parties -- without whom such corruption would not exist -- escape punishment. To make sure there is accountability on the part of these private parties, we propose the following: prohibit organizations that have been convicted of fraud from doing business with the District government for five years, and prohibit contractors or individuals who have misrepresented information in the contract awards process from doing business with the District government for five years.

We believe that a piecemeal approach to ethics reform will not work, and that it will not provide the necessary reassurance to District residents that serious reforms are being adopted. The above proposals will, in our view, go a long way towards clearing that cloud over the Wilson building and restoring public trust in our local government.


InTowner November Issue Now Online
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the November issue content has been posted at, including the issue PDF. There will be found the primary news stories and certain features, including the popular Scenes from the Past (this month titled “Luxury Apartment Building in Mt. Pleasant: From Opulence to Slum to Restored for 21st Century Living”) — plus all photos and other images, other features not included in the PDF, such as Recent Real Estate Sales (which will be updated within the next 24 hours), can be linked directly from the web site’s home page.

This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) “Proposed Design for 16th Street Complex to Replace Existing Brutalist-Style Third Church Christ, Scientist Near White House Well-Received by Dupont Circle ANC”; 2) Logan Circle House Tour to Showcase the Area’s Restoration and Renewal”; 3) “Purchase of Logan Circle’s Norwood Apartments by Tenants After More Than Five-Year Effort Celebrated.”

The next issue PDF will publish early in the morning of December 9 (the second Friday of the month, as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to or call 234-1717.

Special Note: We are now on Facebook and Twitter! On both we will be posting alerts about news and information items that we upload on occasion throughout the monthly issue period. It is easy to check by simply clicking one of the link buttons located at the top of the button panel on the left side of our home page -- or, better yet, follow us on either of these social networks.



Getting to the Bottom of It, November 15
Parisa Norouzi,

Empower DC and DC Jobs with Justice present a grassroots leadership education program, Getting to the Bottom of It: Research and Investigative Tools for DC Residents and Activists, Tuesday, November 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Benning Road Library, 3935 Benning Road, NE (Minnesota Avenue Metro/Green Line, parking available). Find out how to use legislative research, the Freedom of Information Act, audits and the tools of DC’s #1 Watchdog to get the information you need to make your case and demand accountability!

With very special guests Victor Bonett, Legislative Affairs and FOIA Officer for the Office of the Attorney General for DC; Ingrid Drake, Analyst, Office of the DC Auditor, and DC’s premier government watchdog, Dorothy Brizill, Executive Director, DCWatch. RSVP to Sequnely at 234-9119 or Limited child care available.


Ward Two Public Meeting on iGaming, November 15
Debbie Schreiber,

The DC Lottery announced recently that it has confirmed the dates for the rescheduled iGaming community outreach meetings. Meetings have been scheduled in all eight Wards of the District, with the Ward 2 meeting coming up on Tuesday, November 15. The meeting will be held at the MLK Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.


Building in the 21st Century: 2011 Solar Decathlon in Review, November 17
Stacy Adamson,

Thursday, November 17, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Richard King, creator and director of the Solar Decathlon in Washington, DC, offers a behind-the-scenes view of the biennial competition held on the National Mall in October. Free. Registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at



Cell Phones
Elyssa Rae,

As we honor those who have served this Veterans Day, AT&T would like to remind everyone that you can easily support our troops when you recycle your old or unused cell phones. For each phone donated, AT&T is able to provide US troops serving overseas an hour of talk time with their loved ones back home through the Cell Phone for Soldiers initiative.

Anyone with any carrier can help by dropping off your phone at any of AT&T’s more than two thousand company-owned stores across the US. Click here for a list of locations. Mailing in your used phone with free shipping from anywhere in the US. To download a postage-paid shipping label, click here. Since the program began in 2004, AT&T has donated over one half million dollars in phone cards to help ensure every deployed soldier is able to stay connected to their loved ones back home.

For more information about Cell Phones for Soldiers you can visit or I am also available at 295-8795 or


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