Phil Mendelson: No more discipline for Vincent Orange

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

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday that at-large Councilman Vincent Orange, who received an admonition from the city's ethics board last week, will not face additional discipline from the council itself.

"Not every action by the [ethics] board should require a council action," Mendelson told The Washington Examiner. "In this case, the board concluded that the conduct didn't even rise to the level of a reprimand. Therefore, I'm not planning action by the council."

Orange and the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability agreed to a negotiated disposition last week after investigators found that Orange had improperly intervened when health inspectors tried to close a rat-infested produce wholesaler in December.

Orange said that he acted on behalf of his constituents in a bid to keep about 40 people employed as the Christmas holiday approached, but the ethics board found that the lawmaker "knowingly used the prestige of his office or his public position for the private gain of that business."

Mendelson's decision not to pursue discipline is a contrast from earlier this year, when he used an ethics board opinion to marshal support for a formal reprimand of Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham.

The panel said in February that it had "substantial evidence" that Graham had acted inappropriately in meetings about the city's lottery contract and a land deal, but it did not levy sanctions because the misconduct took place before the board existed.

Mendelson said he opted for a different disciplinary route in Orange's case because he felt that Orange's misconduct was less severe than Graham's.

"They're not parallel. The board was very clear that it thought Mr. Graham's actions were very serious," Mendelson said. "The settlement between Mr. Orange and the ethics board was one that fell below a reprimand. Even when the board reprimands, it doesn't necessarily follow that the council should act because a reprimand by the board may be sufficient."

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