Bowser checking up on new D.C. board of ethics

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser is holding a hearing to check up on the newly minted D.C. ethics board's progress after a loophole in legislation passed this summer gave public officials an extension to file their financial disclosures.

The Washington Examiner reported this week that D.C. Council members didn't file their 2011 financial disclosures and potential conflicts of interest forms on Oct. 2 because of a change this summer that moved the filing date back to May 15. Bowser had during the summer said she expected members would still file their disclosures in October, but neither she nor her colleagues had by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Office of Campaign Finance and the new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability say that the date change essentially exempted officials from filing anything this year. Both their 2011 disclosures and 2012 disclosures will be due to the ethics board in May. All officials who earn more than $90,000 have to file disclosures with the board.

Is it a lack of communication?

"The OCF has taken a different point of view than we have," one of Bowser's staff members told The Examiner.

Now, The Examiner has learned Bowser plans to hold a hearing on Oct. 17 to "review the agency's efforts to date, and its plans to enforce the Act and meet its deadlines."

"Appointed in July of 2012, Chairperson Robert Spagnoletti, and members Deborah Lathen and Laura Richards have spent the summer preparing to launch the new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, hiring key staff, drafting regulations, developing training materials, establishing a website, and convening Board meetings all in an effort to begin enforcing the District's ethics laws by the designated October 1st launch date," says the hearing notice, which will be published next week in the D.C. Register.

All that's easier said than done, though. Spagnoletti told The Examiner this week that the board only officially got their office space on Monday. It has identified its executive director, but he still has to transition from his post in the Attorney General's office.

"We're now interviewing for the general counsel position; we have five or six spots we need to hire in the next few months," Spagnoletti said.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner