Granted, the council may have gone as far as it wishes to go with Jim Graham. Most members seem satisfied with formally expressing their disapproval of his conduct. By an 11 to 2 vote, they decided to give Graham a public spanking for embarrassing them and “for affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of government.”
The council’s work, however, should not stop there.
The Graham saga raises serious questions about the adequacy of the District’s own mechanism for ferreting out abuse by public officials. That job, by law, belongs to Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby. In Graham’s case, the IG performed miserably.
The council’s Government Operations Committee, chaired by Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), oversees the Inspector General’s Office. McDuffie should conduct an oversight hearing on the IG’s performance.
Were it not for the extensive October report on Graham by the Metro-retained law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, and the hard-hitting, well-argued opinion
memorandum last month by the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, the council would have had little official evidence with which to sanction Graham.
The ethics board’s impressive review drew upon the 18,000 pages of sworn testimony and documents amassed in support of the Metro report, as well as upon Graham’s written response to the board and his lawyer’s arguments before the board.
In contrast, the inspector general’s 19-page report on Graham’s activities was worthless.
Had Willoughby pursued the allegations against Graham with the same degree of diligence and skill that Metro did, Graham’s serious violation of the public trust might have been brought to light and dealt with months ago.
Unfortunately, the inspector general’s January 2012 report on the award of the D.C. lottery contract — of which only one paragraph was devoted to allegations about Graham — offered little except, perhaps, a couple of embarrassingly wrong conclusions. For example:
“The OIG did not find sufficient evidence to support or conclude that the councilmember [Graham] had acted improperly.”
And this gem:
“The OIG finds that the statement attributed to the council member, without more, such as some sort of quid pro quo, does not reflect misconduct rising to the level of a violation of a standard of conduct.”
Willoughby reached those sweeping conclusions despite the fact that Graham refused even to be interviewed by his office. How does a member of the D.C. Council, facing misconduct allegations, evade investigation by the city’s chief watchdog?
That is one of the questions that McDuffie and his Government Operations Committee should pursue.
When I asked Willoughby how he could conclude his investigation without Graham’s participation, he gave his stock reply to media inquiries: “We stand by our report.”