Melvin Doxie, acting director of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), had an unhappy Halloween.
When Doxie arrived at the Wilson/District Building on Oct. 31, he was looking dapper and smiling. He had been waiting in limbo for nine months, but the D.C. Council was finally going to decide on his nomination for director. The man charged with keeping politicians and lobbyists honest climbed the stairs to the council’s fifth-floor chamber and opened the door, expecting to find the council’s Committee on Government Operations poised to vote up or down on his appointment.
Instead, Doxie encountered a dark room. No one had bothered to tell him that committee Chairman Harold Brazil (Ward 6) had canceled the meeting. Brazil was taking the coward’s way out: Rather than allowing committee members to vote on Doxie, he was choosing to let the nomination die from inaction.
Doxie’s appointment as director of the OCF, an agency devoid of credibility and management, was supposed to be the big fix. The office had been slammed for its failure to thoroughly investigate allegations against the campaigns of Mayor Marion Barry and former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, and activists were counting on Doxie to clean OCF up. But his nomination has degenerated into a giant, embarrassing mess.
The controversy began as soon as Barry appointed him to the post. Administration officials assumed Doxie would breeze through confirmation, but the council changed the rules. Lawmakers removed Barry’s appointment authority and told the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to select the OCF director. The board, too, opted for Doxie—without conducting a search for other candidates—and appointed him to a six-year term. But by law the council must confirm the board’s selection by Nov. 29. Because that vote is not likely to happen—thanks to Brazil—Doxie could be kicked out the door automatically.
This week, Brazil sent a letter to Benjamin Wilson, chairman of the elections board, asking him to withdraw Doxie’s name. Wilson refused; he says the acting OCF director has “demonstrated the character, commitment, and capability necessary to discharge the duties of the office.”
Doxie says he is puzzled by the turn of events. He says he doesn’t understand why Brazil has taken such a dislike to him.
The point of contention for Brazil seems to be Doxie’s past ties to Barry. Doxie was both a former employee of Pride, Inc. and a law partner of Barry ally Willie Leftwich. Brazil also has received complaints from OCF staffers who charge Doxie with managing by intimidation and coercion. Three personnel complaints have been filed against Doxie in the past nine months, according to letters written by Wilson and Brazil.
But members of Brazil’s committee were unhappy when last Tuesday’s meeting was suddenly canceled, and irked that Brazil was ducking a vote. This week, Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson briefly threatened to introduce emergency legislation to force the full council to vote on Doxie’s nomination. That action would have been akin to a discharge motion, which occurs when nine councilmembers vote to bring a bill stuck in a committee before the full council. Members hate discharges because they steal power from committee chairs. In the 20 years of home rule, no discharge petition has succeeded. Patterson withdrew her emergency bill when she realized she didn’t have the votes to win, leaving Doxie still in the dark about his future.
Brazil’s committee is unlikely to vote on Doxie before the Nov. 29 deadline. (Even if the committee does OK Doxie, the full council would still have to convene a special session to vote before time expired.) The death of Doxie’s nomination would force the Board of Elections and Ethics to start the nomination process all over. In the meantime, the city would gear up for an election year lacking a permanent director of the agency charged with defending the city’s often-transgressed campaign-finance laws.