D.C. Inspector General Charles C. Maddox is in a quandary: When he arrives for work on Monday, June 2, he will no longer be qualified for his job.
In an act of personal animus, the D.C. Council overturned a mayoral veto to promulgate legislation mandating that D.C.’s top watchdog must have worked seven years as a certified public accountant or be a seven-year veteran of the D.C. Bar and a graduate of an accredited law school. Maddox would need six more years of bar membership to qualify, and he graduated from Northern Virginia Law School, which was not accredited.
The temporary legislation takes effect on June 1, this Sunday. Maddox Chief of Staff Gloria Johnson, however, has told LL that her boss plans on showing up for work the next day.
So what will happen when Maddox turns up at the office Monday morning? LL envisions a few scenarios:
•Charlie Maddox doesn’t work here anymore: After his morning jog in either Logan Circle or Upper Marlboro, Maddox heads into the office. The guards at 717 14th St. NW don’t let him past the front desk. He’s not on the employee list anymore. Even when Maddox makes a break and takes the elevator up to the fifth floor, he can’t get in the door: Maddox’s council nemesis, Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent B. Orange Sr., had the locks changed.
•Meet the new boss: Having lost confidence in Maddox, D.C. councilmembers say that they refer most cases of questionable government conduct these days to D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols. Maddox walks into his suite only to find Nichols tapping into the inspector general’s confidential tip line.
Or, in Maddox’s worst-nightmare scenario, he finds D.C.’s Shadow Inspector General Dorothy Brizill swiveling in his chair, working the phones.
•The Penske File: In one Seinfeld episode, George Costanza shows up for work at an office even though he’s not sure whether he’s gotten the job. With his interviewer on vacation and no one really sure who he is, Costanza gets handed “the Penske file.” With Mayor Anthony A. Williams off in Europe, Maddox may be wading into sitcom territory starting June 2.
For those who haven’t followed the story line, a brief synopsis: For months now, a feuding Maddox and Orange have dominated the Channel 13 airwaves with hearing after hearing on Maddox’s investigation into the Board of Elections and Ethics and its sister agency, the Office of Campaign Finance. The dispute started in earnest last year, when tipsters informed Maddox’s office of alleged misconduct by elections officials. Then in July and August, right when the board was marshaling all of its scarce resources to investigate the mayor’s petition scandal, Maddox seized all the agency’s computer files, including even the voter roll. Elections officials say Maddox’s troops stormed into their offices, disrupting their mojo at a critical moment.
Siding with peeved Board of Elections officials, Orange framed Maddox’s intrusion as a deliberate campaign to throw the board off Williams’ trail.
Maddox countered that the board, as well as the Office of Campaign Finance, was guilty of genuine impropriety. And he accused Orange of ulterior motives, as well. Last week, Maddox issued his latest salvo: In an eight-page letter addressed to Mayor Williams and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, D.C.’s top ethics officer alleged gross misconduct at the D.C. agencies charged with keeping local elections fair and honest.
“The OCF, BOEE, and the OIG were intended to be independent watchdogsthey should not look the other way when rules are broken at the highest levels of government,” wrote Maddox in the letter, which summarizes a larger report that he sent to board Chair Benjamin F. Wilson. (The full report was not released to the public.) “It is now time to make the choice as to what should prevail in the nation’s capital: integrity in government or more cover-ups and cronyism.”
Maddox reaches a couple of whopper conclusions in his report: First, he accuses Board of Elections Executive Director Alice P. Miller and Campaign Finance Chief Cecily Collier-Montgomery of scheming to give themselves illegal pay raises. He referred the matter to the U.S. attorney, who declined to pursue it. Then Maddox claims that top elections officials, including Wilson, tried to impede his investigation and retaliated against whistleblowers who cooperated with his office.
Cropp’s likely reaction: Do you even work here anymore?
Through all the intrigue, Williams has said he stands by the independent watchdog. Well, sorta. When questioned by the press about Maddox’s job security, Williams has carefully avoided endorsing the inspector general’s work. Instead, he has made the lawyerly argument that the council has disregarded due process in ousting Maddox. Only the mayor can fire the inspector general for cause. “The executive has an obligation to stand up for the authority of his office,” says Williams spokesperson Tony Bullock. “What we have attempted to do is to seek with the council a declaratory judgment from a court.”
It had better come soon.
To judge from Maddox’s most outspoken ally on the council, he’s in big trouble. Following the council’s override, At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil told the Washington Post, “My argument is not that the council is right or wrong in the assessment of [Maddox’s] performance. The issue is much more fundamental with me. It’s fine to change the legislation as long as you don’t mess with this guy. There’s a strong indication to me that they’re changing the law just to get rid of this guy.”
Brazil making a valid point? Is this some kind of D.C.-politics bizarro universe?
Whoever sits in Maddox’s chair next week would be well-advised to follow up the probe of the Office of Campaign Finance, which appears to be in chaos. In the report to Wilson, the inspector general explained that certain alleged campaign-finance infractions never got the proper scrutiny. He alleged that elections officials covered up the alleged improprieties for at least three incumbent councilmembers.
“A supervisory auditor advised that continuing efforts have been made by OCF officials to suppress or minimize findings of significant violations of campaign finance laws in the audits of at least three current D.C. Council members,” reads the full report.
According to Maddox, the supervisory auditor for the Office of Campaign Finance had begun to examine Orange’s 1998 campaign as well as the 2000 campaigns of At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans. The auditor highlighted problems in a September audit draft, including questionable campaign funds and possible Hatch Act violations.
Why has the process taken so long? The audits were never completed. Many of the allegations in the September report were deleted in a March 2003 draft shared with the councilmembers. Nearly two-and-a-half-years after the candidates declared victory, the Office of Campaign Finance still hasn’t resolved issues such as improper contributions and expenditures.
Maddox declines to comment on his findings. “Our policy is to always let the report speak for itself,” says Johnson.
Despite the law, councilmembers haven’t seen the last of Maddox: The inspector general is scheduled to appear before Committee on Human Services Chair Sandy Allen on June 11.
•On the night of Thursday, May 22, Schwartz proved once again that no one outdoes the D.C. Council’s fashionista, not even over-the-top entertainer Ester Goldberg. Competing against Ward 2’s Evans in Goldberg’s mock game show, The Feud, Schwartz wowed the packed crowd at Logan Circle’s Titan Bar with a lavender suede fringed poncho accented with sparkly earrings. Even Goldberg’s Lucille Ball hairdo, baby-blue eye shadow, and metallic cat glasses couldn’t top the sartorial splendor of her fellow Jewish mother.
Gentile Evans wore a white shirt, Levi’s, and boat shoes without socks.
Goldberg’s first question for the pols? “Name something a candidate might say to get re-elected.” Precocious Evans buzzed in first: “Anything,” the Democratic mayoral wannabe answered. Eeehhhkk. Schwartz reminded the Titan crowd why she’s still a Republican: “No new taxes,” her answer, registered No. 1 on the Feud’s board.
In a strategic move, Schwartz passed on the opening team round. The Evans staff struggled to come up with the right answers: Fix potholes? Not up there. More police? No such luck. The Ward 2 councilmember might want to hire some pollsters and focus groups before launching his 2006 mayoral run.
Yet feisty Evans reminded LL that he’s always a tough competitor: After four truly fabulous rounds, Evans claimed victoryand $42 for his constituent-services fund, which, in an act of sportsmanship, he later handed over to Schwartz.
•Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board member Laurie Collins is known to most who follow D.C. politics as a ringleader of the Coalition to Repair and Reopen Klingle Road. Apparently, that typecasting of the Mount Pleasant activist holds true for Mayor Williams, as well: According to executive-office sources, he has decided not to reappoint Collins to the ABC Board.
Those sources say they had concerns about Collins’ synergy with the Williams agenda. In other words, Williams wanted to keep the controversial Northwest thoroughfare closed to vehicular traffic, and Collins used every opportunity to argue the benefits of reopening the small, winding road to cars. Collins went on the offensive, accusing Williams spokesperson Bullock of using his position as a close-Klingle bully pulpit. Bullock lives on 34th Street NW in Woodley Park, near the closed section of the road.
On Klingle, Collins won: Earlier this month, the D.C. Council coughed up $5.7 million for reopening the road. Yet the victory seems to come at the expense of her ABC post. “Laurie Collins has done an excellent job as an ABC Board member. She has also done an excellent job as a private citizen lobbying for a road to be opened,” says Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian M. Fenty. “Given the option of retaining a good board member or punishing someone who doesn’t agree with him on a particular issue, [the mayor] chose the latter.”
“I’m here to make a contribution and to move the mayor’s agenda forward as far as ABC in our city,” said Collins on Tuesday.
The influential liquor-licensing board has other changes ahead: Chair Roderic L. Woodson resigned in late April. Candidates vying for the position include Ward 2’s Vince Micone and Ward 6’s Ellen Opper-Weiner, who currently serves on the board.
•When Norm Neverson announced his resignation as chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee May 1, he reassured LL that he was not abandoning the party entirely: Neverson insisted that he would seek re-election as chair of the Ward 4 Democrats.
This week, Neverson announced that he has bowed out of that race as well.
“No one has ever called me in Ward 4 to ask me not to run,” Neverson explains to LL. “One hundred percent of my support base has asked me to stay on…to give us a voice.”
Dwayne Revis will likely succeed Ward 4’s great orator. A grant-management specialist with the Corporation for National Service, Revis also directed the Whitman-Walker Clinic’s Max Robinson Center in Ward 8. He’s currently vice chair of the Shepherd Park Citizens’ Association.
“I want to bring activism,” says Revis. “I want people to be involved in the Ward 4 Democratic Party, because people aren’t right now.”CP
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