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If D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson gets his way, the District’s 13 councilmembers will be offering the public more frequent—and more revealing—looks into their personal finances.
Mendelson introduced the legislation Tuesday ahead of the Council’s two-month recess. The bill would double the amount of financial disclosures councilmembers file, from once a year to twice a year. Perhaps more interestingly for Council-watchers, the bill also promises to apply a uniform standard to councilmembers’ disclosures.
Mendelson says the bill, which he introduced with David Grosso, is meant to clear up confusion with current disclosure rules, which are written like they apply only to the executive branch. In the past, according to Mendelson, councilmembers have been left to “decipher,” for example, whether they meet the law’s definition of “agency heads.”
Currently, councilmembers file their annual disclosures in May. But Mendelson wants councilmembers to make two disclosures a year, which could help surface financial shenanigans like late Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry‘s illicit gifts from city contractors earlier.
“This will increase the utility of the information, as the disclosures will be more current,” Mendelson said.
Those new financial disclosures will be useless, though, if councilmembers keep filling them out as skimpily as they often do. To solve that, Mendelson’s bill would make councilmembers review their disclosures with the Council’s general counsel to see if they’re missing potential conflicts of interest.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery