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Technically, former City Administrator Rashad Young violated ethics rules when he rejected a proposal from Howard University for a larger tax break on a deal to build a new hospital. Just hours before that, Young met with the university’s president about a new job.
Now, Young will pay a $2,500 fine for what the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability is calling an inadvertent violation of the rules.
While that sum might not sting too much for Young who was pulling down a $307,000 government salary until he resigned in August, it’s certainly enough to make LL go back and study the ethics rules, lest he accidentally get caught on BEGA’s bad side.
Young was part of the team representing the District in talks with Howard University about tax breaks for construction of a new hospital. Those negotiations stretched from August 2019 through July of this year.
Young met with Howard University President Wayne Frederick on the morning of July 14 while staff members in the Office of the City Administrator and at Howard traded emails about the university’s proposed changes to the deal for a $225 million tax abatement. The Howard staffer was unaware Young and Frederick were meeting, the ethics probe found.
Howard’s new proposal would have increased the tax break to $314 million, according to the BEGA settlement. After his meeting with Frederick, and on his staff’s advice, Young rejected the proposed $89 million increase but approved other minor changes.
D.C. law prohibits employees from negotiating for outside employment that conflicts with their government duties. Young should have recused himself from talks with Howard after meeting with Frederick, BEGA says.
But ethics investigators took into consideration that Young sought ethics advice before engaging in talks with Frederick about working for the university.
“[The Office of Government Ethics] did not identify any evidence that [Young] intended to misuse his position with the District to gain employment with the University or that he intended in any way to use his official position to benefit neither himself nor the University financially,” the BEGA settlement says.
“Unfortunately, his understanding that his weighing in on the proposed amendments was not an issue because he could not approve them, nor tried to approve them, did not reflect the broad nature of the District’s Code of Conduct,” the settlement continues. “Thus, it appears [Young] inadvertently committed a technical violation of the Code of Conduct.”
Talks between the District and Howard University about building a new hospital facility started in August 2019. By April of this year, the two sides entered into a memorandum of understanding, and in June Mayor Muriel Bowser dropped a bill that would give Howard the $225 million tax break.
Young met with D.C. councilmembers to lobby for the bill, and on June 30 he publicly testified in favor of it. At that point, according to Young, he believed his role in the deal was complete because the bill was already pending before the D.C. Council.
The Council gave initial approval for the hospital tax break on July 21, and the bill is up for a second vote this Tuesday.
On Aug. 14, Young abruptly resigned from his job running the city’s day-to-day operations for Bowser, a position he’s held since she took office in 2015. Young had accepted a new gig at Howard on Aug. 2, the BEGA settlement says. His fine is due Dec. 31, 2020.