D.C. Councilman Vincent Orange in December sought to intervene when the city's health inspectors shuttered a grocery store for an infestation of rodents, District records show.
During a routine inspection of Sam Wang Produce in Northeast Washington on Dec. 21, the D.C. Department of Health found "numerous rodent droppings ... on the floor, in cartons and in crates in various locations throughout the storage room," along with 17 other critical and noncritical violations.
City records first reported Monday by the Titan of Trinidad blog show that Jacqueline Coleman, an area supervisor, told the store's owner that the location would be "required to close immediately" until it could resolve its infestation.
But "within twenty-two (22) minutes" of Coleman's ruling, Orange, who is unidentified in the District's inspection report, arrived at the property.
The councilman has accepted thousands of dollars in political contributions from people who listed the store's Morse Street Northeast address as their home, according to campaign finance records. The donations included contributions to Orange's mayoral run in 2006 and his bid for re-election last year. Orange, who could not be reached for comment, sits on the council's health and consumer affairs committees.
According to the health department, after arriving at the property, Orange asked for the names of two officials' supervisors and "discussed the situation" with the program manager.
That person chose to delay closing the store until the deputy director of the Health Regulation and Licensing Administration, which oversees food safety inspections, could make a ruling about the location's future.
Ultimately, the department chose to shutter the produce store, where inspectors also found "pooled water and food debris ... on the walk-in refrigerator floors" and troublesome hand-washing facilities.
But the produce store wasn't out of business for long: The District's health inspectors visited the property again on Dec. 22 -- one day later -- and allowed it to reopen after they found "no signs of vermin activity" and saw that most other violations had been fixed.
The store's owners could not be reached Monday evening.