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Ms. Subpoena is back at work.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh today announced she’ll be digging deep into her legislative toolbox to pry out information on this year’s electoral fiascoes.
For one, Cheh announced at a council press conference this morning, she will be asking her council colleagues at the legislative meeting tomorrow to pass a resolution to enforce subpoenas on Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of the District’s voting machines. Cheh, who is heading a special committee investigating this year’s elections, had sought source code for Sequoia’s software and other records in September in order to vet allegations of voting irregularities during the Sept. 9 primary. Sequoia has thus far refused to comply; the resolution would allow the council to ask a judge to force compliance.
In the second part of Cheh’s investigative salvo, she plans to subpoena Board of Elections and Ethics executive director Sylvia Goldsberry-Adams, forcing her to submit to a deposition. Goldsberry-Adams had been scheduled to testify at a Nov. 13 hearing on the general election, but she did not show due to what was reported to be a medical emergency. At that all-day hearing, no other board member or staffer showed, and no written testimony was ever provided.
Cheh’s last attempt to serve subpoenas ran into a brick wall. As a member of the housing committee, she and chair Marion Barry demanded documentation and testimony from staff at the Department of Housing and Community Development in connection with the firing of Rent Administrator Grayce Wiggins. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles refused to comply with the subpoenas, touching off a skirmish in the Great Mayor-Council War of 2008.
The Board of Elections and Ethics is a somewhat different case, it should be said, since it is nominally independent of the mayor. Cheh says she has no knowledge that the Fenty administration played any part in the board’s decision not to provide testimony. Board spokesperson Dan Murphy was not immediately available for comment.
At the presser this morning, she pointed to the BOEE’s Nov. 13 no-show as “part of a larger culture that grown up in the executive branch of indifference to council oversight.”
Why not hold another hearing rather than ask for a deposition? Says Cheh, “I don’t want general witnesses. I want information from the elections board.” And, she says, this also has to do with making a point that public officials have to comply with council oversight functions: “I want to insist that when we make people come and testify, they come and testify.”