D.C. councilman wants disclosure rule axed

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Phil Mendelson,David Grosso

Frustrated by what he contends is a plethora of "gotcha" rules, a senior District lawmaker wants D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to review the tightened ethics regime that regulates legislators' conduct.

"My recommendation would be that the chairman do a review of all of this stuff since it's been in effect, for however long it's been, and see if any adjustments need to be made," Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans told The Washington Examiner.

Evans' comments marked the second time in a week that he took aim at the new ethical framework, especially a council rule that forces members to disclose when they accept free admission to specific events as a part of their official duties.

"I thought all of this stuff was problematic from the beginning," said Evans, the council's longest-serving member, during a Tuesday breakfast meeting with lawmakers. "They serve virtually no purpose that I can see."

Evans said that it would "take a lot of political courage" for legislators to void the new rule, and added: "I would get rid of this tomorrow if I could get six people to agree with me."

Since the rule took effect in August, nine members have filed the monthly disclosure forms, although lawmakers are not required to submit documentation if they don't attend any events covered by the mandate.

"We think that there's an OK response rate, but not an excellent response rate," said David Zvenyach, the council's top lawyer.

Council Secretary Nyasha Smith, who oversees administrative issues for the legislative branch, estimated that only four of 13 lawmakers are "fully compliant," but she did not name names.

Mendelson said he was willing to conduct an assessment.

"I think the rules should be reviewed with an eye toward how much we can make them clearer and simpler for members to follow," said Mendelson, who insisted he does not want to weaken the guidelines.

At-large Councilman David Grosso said he would oppose any efforts to curb disclosure guidelines, and he said the District needs to improve its efforts to train lawmakers and aides about the finer points of the city's ethics rules.

"Maybe the rules aren't clear enough. Maybe there's not enough training," Grosso said. "I did orientation in the last six months, and I didn't get any training on that at all."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner