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Ex-D.C. councilman had most of his traffic tickets dropped

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

A former member of the D.C. Council had seven of 10 traffic tickets he was issued while on the council dropped by the Department of Motor Vehicles, a new city report has found.

The report, an audit issued by the Office of the Inspector General, found that in January 2011, a "then-Councilmember's Chief of Staff" submitted a request to the DMV that 10 tickets be dropped. Three now-former officials were serving at that time: Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas Jr. and Sekou Biddle.

Biddle told The Washington Examiner on Wednesday that he pays his parking tickets and was not the subject of the report. Thomas is serving a three-year sentence in federal prison for embezzling city grant money and could not immediately be reached. Brown is under home detention after pleading guilty to bank fraud and did not return a request for comment.

D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby said it's the agency's policy not to include names in audits. The scope of the audit covered the DMV's ticket-processing services.

"We look at things from an operational and programmatic standpoint," Willoughby said.

According to the report, six of the 10 tickets were dropped by a DMV hearing examiner on the basis that council members are exempt from parking tickets while conducting city business. Two speeding tickets, a red-light violation and a failure to have his vehicle inspected were not dropped.

Then, in May 2011, the Department of Public Works submitted a request for 135 tickets to be voided, including the then-councilman's failure to get his vehicle inspected. The request was granted by the DMV.

Mayor Vincent Gray on Wednesday defended the law that exempts council members from parking tickets. But he added that if "people get tickets through behaviors that really are not excusable by the District's laws, then people need to take responsibility and pay the fines."

Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells went further, calling getting tickets voided an "abuse of office."

"At the end of the day, we're just regular citizens too, and we already have so many advantages," he said.

The audit asked the DMV to institute controls so that tickets that were already ruled on cannot be voided later. But the DMV's response, which was included in the report, said the agency's general counsel advised "if an enforcement agency requests a ticket to be voided that is issued, then the DMV should void the ticket no matter the stage of the proceedings."

Still, the audit said the DMV's response was not sufficient. A spokeswoman for the DMV did not return a request from The Examiner for further comment.

Examiner Staff Writer Alan Blinder contributed to this report

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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