Phil Mendelson says he wants quick action on Councilman Jim Graham

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Phil Mendelson,D.C. Council,Jim Graham

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Tuesday that he wants lawmakers to decide "promptly" whether they will take any action against Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham, the subject of intense scrutiny since the city's ethics board said last week it believed he had violated the District's conduct rules.

"I am going to talk to colleagues, and I will recommend some action by the council," Mendelson said in his first public comments since Thursday's opinion from the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. "I would like us to deal with it promptly. I don't want to deal with it so immediately that we make some mistakes, but I don't want to see this fester."

Mendelson declined to set a deadline for action and said he had hoped "that the ethics board would deal with and resolve this issue."

But in issuing its ruling last week, the ethics board opted not to open a formal investigation into Graham. The panel said it ended its review because it did not have the power to sanction Graham because the purported misconduct took place before the board was established.

That didn't stop the three-member panel, though, from lashing out at the veteran legislator about his actions surrounding his vote on the city's $38 million lottery contract and a development deal.

The board cited "substantial evidence" that Graham had breached the city's code of conduct and said his activities were "designed to benefit... a campaign contributor."

Graham has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers have said they are exploring their legal options.

But those moves have not stopped lawmakers from privately discussing whether to reprimand or censure Graham.

Under the council's rules, a reprimand is "a formal statement of the council officially disapproving the conduct of one of its members." A reprimand doesn't result in any formal sanctions, and the council can approve it with a simple majority vote.

A censure is more serious and is "a punitive action" resulting from a finding that a lawmaker "took an action that amounts to a gross failure to meet the highest standards of personal and professional conduct."

Before issuing a censure, the council must stage its own investigation into the alleged misconduct. A censure also requires support from two-thirds of the council.

Only one lawmaker -- Ward 8's Marion Barry -- has ever been censured. He faced discipline in 2010, after officials found that he delivered a city contract to a girlfriend and used the earmark process to benefit himself and close friends.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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