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What happened to Muriel Bowser and Karl Racine? They were the District’s own Cheech and Chong on marijuana legalization, but now they’re divided on budget autonomy and, more intriguingly, Bowser’s attempt to strip power out of Racine’s newly independent office. Now a letter from Racine suggests that the mayor’s office isn’t playing fair in their new turf war.
In an April 8 letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Racine writes that he originally saw a version of Bowser’s budget support act that the Office of the Attorney General certified as “legally sufficient.”
According to Racine, though, that version didn’t include the now-controversial provision in the budget support act submitted to the Council that would give Bowser’s own staff the ability to review contracts and laws, in effect giving her the ability to avoid receiving that same review from Racine.
In other words, according to Racine, Bowser’s staff submitted a budget support act without the portion he’d be most likely to object to. With the attorney general provision in the budget support act, Racine writes to Mendelson, the legislation isn’t legally sufficient.
Bowser and Racine are also at odds over the fate of attorneys who work with the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. In an April 9 letter to the mayor, Racine asks Bowser to stop her efforts to take the attorneys under his administration’s control.
The dispute dates back to a complicated deal struck between then-Mayor Adrian Fenty and then-Attorney General Peter Nickles, where OAG lawyers working with DMPED were paid by the deputy mayor’s office, while their supervisors were paid by OAG.
Now, though, Racine claims that Bowser is trying to take control of the attorneys by hiring their supervisors over to DMPED. In his letter, Racine says that two OAG supervisors have already been offered jobs with DMPED in an effort to eliminate the OAG-funded positions. The DMPED-funded OAG attorneys have allegedly been told that if they don’t take new jobs with DMPED that are outside of the OAG structure, they’ll soon find themselves out of work.
“It is simply unfair to place the livelihood of OAG lawyers who have exemplary careers serving the District in the middle of this important issue,” Racine writes.
The real estate fight shouldn’t interest just the people who could lose their jobs, though. Removing OAG real estate attorneys from DMPED would remove an outside check and review on the development deals cut by the Bowser administration.
Bowser spokesman Michael Czin declined to comment, waiting instead for what he says is an upcoming letter from the mayor’s office on the dispute with Racine.
“I respect the mayor’s desire to have her own lawyers,” Racine says in a statement to LL. “Nonetheless, mature democracies throughout this country, like the District, require checks and balances.”