Five months after then–District Inspector General Charles Willoughby announced that he was retiring, Vince Gray has come up with his replacement. If only the new guy was legally allowed to be inspector general!
Gray nominee Daniel Lucas has experience in the watchdog business, coming from a position as Deputy Inspector General in the Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command. Thanks to legislation left over from an attempt to oust another IG in 2003, though, Lucas doesn’t meet the extensive background necessities for the office, which require an IG to be a registered lawyer or accountant in the District for seven years.
That rule hamstrings any national searches for IG nominees, since it requires new heads of the agency to come from the District. It also makes it more likely that the IG’s potential targets will know a nominee before they take office.
To get around that problem, Gray plans to send emergency legislation to the Council that would change the seven-year rule to a requirement that heads of the Office of the Inspector General has only, along with integrity and management experience, “demonstrated experience and ability” in the law, accounting, investigations, or other fields.
Gray’s effort has the support of Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who withdrew similar legislation in May in the face of Council opposition. McDuffie met with Lucas yesterday and thinks he has good qualifications for the job.
“Maintaining those overly restrictive requirements at this point does not make practical sense,” McDuffie says.
If Lucas takes office, he’ll find himself in charge of a troubled agency that’s been accused of slow-rolling its investigations. Gray says he’s talked with Lucas about the need to speed up the agency’s investigations.
Even if Gray’s new law succeeds in clearing the way for Lucas, though, Lucas could still face opposition from councilmembers, including some mayoral hopefuls, who would prefer that Gray’s replacement appoint his or her own IG. Because the IG has a six-year term, in part to create this sort of independence, the next mayor wouldn’t be able to replace Lucas if he passes the nomination process.
David Catania supports changing the requirements, according to chief of staff Brendan Williams-Kief. In May, Muriel Bowser opposed McDuffie’s bill, but her office didn’t respond to an immediate request for comment on whether she’s changed her mind. Gray, meanwhile, claims that his lame-duck status makes him the ideal candidate to nominate an independent IG.
Update, 9/26, 10:40 a.m.: In a statement on Gray’s proposed nominee and law, Bowser writes that Gray “has to make the case for lowering the statutory qualifications.”
“I’m willing to consider his argument and evaluate his nominee,” Bowser says.
Photo by Will Sommer