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Councilman Jim Graham facing reprimand, sues D.C. ethics panel

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

D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, seeking to avert a newly threatened reprimand from his legislative colleagues, asked a judge Thursday to order the city's ethics board to withdraw the opinion it issued that set off a firestorm about his conduct earlier this month.

In a D.C. Superior Court filing, Graham's lawyers described the ruling from the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability as "simply indefensible" and a violation of Graham's right to due process.

Earlier this month, the three-member panel issued an opinion that ripped Graham for offering to trade his vote on the city's $38 million lottery contract in exchange for a company dropping its bid to develop a property owned by Metro.

But the board stopped short of opening a full investigation because of constitutional concerns about whether it could sanction Graham for conduct that took place before the panel existed.

That did not stop D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, though, from announcing Thursday that he was seeking a formal reprimand against Graham.

The council will meet Monday to vote on the resolution, which would mark the second time in 38 years that the council has reprimanded one of its members.

"The council finds, from two years of controversy, the three investigations and widespread public comments, that Councilmember Graham's actions have adversely affected the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District government," the proposed resolution says.

In addition to the reprimand, Mendelson wants to remove Graham's authority to oversee alcohol issues within his committee chairmanship.

Graham said he hopes the Superior Court will rule on his request for a temporary restraining order sometime Thursday.

It was unclear whether the ruling would halt Mendelson's proposal, but Graham's lawyers contended that lawmakers would be basing their reprimand on an "unlawful decision" from the ethics board.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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