The director of D.C.’s Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Brent Wolfingbarger, has resigned as of Dec. 31, 2019. The five-member Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA), which has oversight of the ethics office, voted to install Rochelle Ford as the acting director effective Jan. 2.
Ford served as the attorney advisor for BEGA starting in late 2018 and previously worked in the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and in the U.S. Department of Justice, where she provided ethics training and advice.
Ford declined to say whether she’s interested in the permanent job, but says she’s “fully committed to running the agency while I’m in this position.”
The search for Wolfingbarger’s permanent replacement is ongoing, BEGA chair Norma Hutcheson tells LL.
Wolfingbarger served as director of the agency starting in December 2017, according to his LinkedIn page, and pulled down a $183,000 salary in 2018.
Wolfingbarger’s departure follows a Council oversight hearing last year when Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen vented his frustration with the office’s performance under Wolfingbarger. The hearing touched on an untold number of complaints that had gone ignored or unacknowledged, an inadequate case tracking system that relied in part on Wolfingbarger’s memory, a damning report from the Office of the D.C. Auditor, and Wolfingbarger’s decision to pause the ethics investigation into Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans at the request of federal law enforcement.
Yet, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board, which Evans chaired, had no problem launching its own investigation into his private consulting relationships, Allen pointed out. WMATA’s investigation determined that Evans “knowingly” violated ethics rules and furthered the interests of his friends and clients rather than WMATA’s, according to a memo from Schulte Roth & Zabel, the firm that conducted the investigation.
WMATA’s conclusions prompted the Council to start an investigation of its own, costing taxpayers $250,000. The Council’s investigation, conducted by the law firm O’Melveny and Myers, found repeated violations of ethics rules.
For his part, Wolfingbarger accepted responsibility for the office’s deficiencies and described a plan during the hearing to correct course.
On the bright side, Wolfingbarger now may have some extra time on his hands and can get to work on a sequel to his political romance thriller, The Dirty Secret.