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The D.C. Council won’t have to provide staffers’ names to a congressional committee—for now. After a fierce internal dispute over whether to name the Council staffers who worked on a pot legalization hearing, the Council has gotten away with only naming councilmembers. Those names are in a letter that could potentially double as a list of people who broke federal appropriations laws.
Council chairman Phil Mendelson owed the letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz after Chaffetz, in a fit of pre-marijuana legalization pique, asked both the Council and Muriel Bowser to list what moneys they’d spent legalizing the drug.
In the Council’s case, Chaffetz meant a hearing on legalization that had already been changed into an “informal” round-table in an effort to avoid breaking the congressional prohibition on spending city money to legalize the drug. Chaffetz wanted the names and salaries of any councilmembers or staff who had been involved in the hearing, putting them at (slight) risk for a prosecution from the never-used Anti-Deficiency Act.
Mendelson’s letter, sent on March 11, gives about as a little information as possible to Chaffetz and his committee. The Council didn’t provide staffers’ names after a conversation between attorney general Karl Racine and Chaffetz’s staff, according to the letter. Instead, only six councilmembers’ names are in the letter—an improvement on an earlier Mendelson plan to name councilmembers and any staffers at the dais during the meeting.
“We are concerned that the disclosures of Council staffers’ names may cause them or their families to feel intimidated,” Mendelson writes.
Mendelson isn’t sure if the Council’s response satisfied Chaffetz. A spokeswoman for Chaffetz didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I’m not going to second guess whether it’s over,” Mendelson says.
LL would love to tell you what the executive branch sent to Chaffetz, but his Freedom of Information Act request is making its way through open records purgatory. After initially denying the whole request on the grounds that it’s exempt as part of a law enforcement investigation, Bowser’s FOIA officer now tells LL they’re reconsidering the blanket rejection.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery