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Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham will have one less problem to worry about in his coming re-election fight. After deciding that Graham can’t be sued for his role in a botched Metro development deal, a federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed against him over it.
Since the tortured tale of Graham, Metro, and the D.C. lottery looks to be done, let’s remember where it all started. In 2008, Graham, then a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board that administers Metro, allegedly offered to back a lottery contract bid by a member of development firm Banneker Ventures if the company dropped out of a Metro development deal to make room for one of Graham’s campaign donors, developer LaKritz Adler.
After a WMATA investigation found that Graham broke the authority’s conduct rules, the actions earned Graham a reprimand from the D.C. Council and the loss of his oversight of city alcohol regulations. Last year, Banneker sued Graham, Metro, and LaKritz Adler for $100 million for allegedly interfering with its development deal.
After today’s opinion, though, the construction firm won’t be collecting anything. In her opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer writes that Graham’s action while on the Metro board fall under sovereign immunity protections, meaning he can’t be sued in his personal capacity for actions he took while he was on the board.
“It is important that WMATA officials be free to make complex decisions regarding large real estate projects, which are often controversial, without fear of suit,” Collyer writes.
Even if Graham did behave inappropriately, Collyer writes that there were other remedies outside of Banneker’s lawsuit to be used against him, including the Council reprimand and the possibility of Graham losing his next election.
Banneker’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Graham says that he’s “very pleased” by the judge’s ruling.
“We can now put this issue behind us, so we can move forward to serve the Ward and the City,” Graham says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery