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Mendelson: Guilty pleas of Gray aides don't hinder work on ethics

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and a key ally insist that an escalating city hall scandal won't derail the mayor's overhaul of ethics and campaign finance laws, even though Gray remains under scrutiny and has repeatedly missed deadlines to move parts of his agenda forward.

Two guilty pleas taken by former Gray's aides last week amounted to a distraction, not a dilution of the mayor's power, said at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson.

"They're a reminder that we have this ethical cloud and a reminder that it will be nice when the U.S. attorney concludes these investigations, however they turn out," Mendelson said.

Prior to the charges against his campaign workers, Gray had already missed three deadlines in moving his agenda about ethics and campaign finance forward.

Two of the deadlines were tied to the city's new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, a three-member panel that will write ethics guidelines for District workers and investigate allegations of misconduct.

Under the District law establishing the board, the mayor was to have nominated the panel's inaugural members by March 14. But that deadline came and went with no nominees, as did a second target date of mid-April that Gray's office set.

Gray has repeatedly promised to submit his selections to the D.C. Council for approval by June 5, knowing that if he doesn't, a council proposal to strip him of one of his nominations could surface again.

Gray's plans to reform the District's campaign finance system, which has been under harsh scrutiny since federal agents in March raided locations with ties to a prolific D.C. campaign donor, are also tardy.

Although the mayor promised to roll out his plan by May 15, Gray acknowledged at a May 16 news conference that he hadn't yet met with D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan to discuss the proposal.

Nathan had been conducting an internal audit of the city's finance rules to help Gray develop his own overhaul proposal.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, also said the mayor intends to continue leading the city on all issues, including ethics.

"We're going to continue to do the work that the people elected him to do," Ribeiro said. "The mayor has said he's going to release a plan and appoint his nominees soon."

SClBablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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