In its first full meeting following the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, D.C. Council members spent a significant amount of time debating whether they can take home office furniture.
Chairman Phil Mendelson was the lone voice opposing the proposal from At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman to set up a system through which councilmembers and their staffs can take computer monitors, printers, and other office supplies to their homes. Most of the Council staff has been working from home since March.
In an impassioned argument to his colleagues, Mendelson warned items could be damaged in transit or might never find their way back to the Wilson Building.
“I think it gives a bad look to the Council, and I think it creates a risk of abuse,” he tells LL. “There’s a lot of risk of damage and expense and unintended consequences like theft, and it will be hard to ensure that everything is returned.”
As it stands now, Council offices can approve expenses for low-cost home office items, such as a $100 printer, Mendelson says, instead of removing the fancy, expensive ones from the Wilson Building. Furniture is not allowed to leave the building.
Silverman says her requests for staffers to take their work equipment home have been rejected for months, and she volunteered during the meeting to find a solution.
“From my perspective, we’re wasting taxpayer dollars by buying a bunch of equipment for people that we could grab from the Wilson Building,” she says. “[Mendelson] made a waste, fraud, and abuse argument, and I said to the Chairman, ‘well, if that’s the concern, then there’s a real trust issue here.'”
Silverman suggests a solution whereby staffers are allowed to “sign out” certain pieces of equipment, like a computer monitor, but would need special permission for other items, like a desk. She circulated a memo to that effect last year that six other members signed.
“If you have an ergonomic chair, I don’t see why you can’t bring that home,” Silverman says. “And if there’s accidental damage, then we’ll pay for it. But if you light it on fire or sell it on eBay, then you have to pay up.”
In its administrative meeting, the D.C. Council also discussed whether to switch its domain from .us to .gov, whether to allow simultaneous hearings, and whether to request a public safety briefing from the mayor’s office later this week.
The three-hour administrative meeting ended without a resolution to the disagreement over take-home furniture.
Meanwhile, Acting United States Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin said in a press conference this afternoon that his office charged more than 70 people with crimes connected with the Capitol riot. Sherwin says he expects that number to rise and that investigators identified at least 170 people who may have committed crimes on Capitol grounds. The potential charges range from trespassing to felony murder.
The existence of an FBI report warning of a “war” at the Capitol was also made public today. The report, first reported by the Washington Post, was produced Jan. 5, and was circulated to other law enforcement agencies including MPD, according to Steven D’Antuono, director of the FBI’s field office in D.C. MPD did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.