Viewing entries tagged
ethics

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Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso regarding Councilmember Evans’ latest dishonesty to the Council about the nature of his relationship with lobbyist Bill Jarvis:

“Tomorrow, the Council will consider resolutions to remove Councilmember Jack Evans as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee and hire a law firm to conduct an investigation into his potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. While I appreciate that the Council is finally acting to take Councilmember Evans’ misconduct seriously, it is frustrating that it has taken us this long to act to protect the Council’s reputation and hold our colleague accountable.

“Regardless of the actions we take tomorrow, given new revelations over the weekend of Councilmember Evans’ dishonesty, I believe the public trust in Councilmember Evans is irreparable and it is in the best interest of the Council and the residents of the District of Columbia that Jack Evans resign as the Ward 2 Councilmember. Short of that, I will be offering an amendment that would also remove him from all committees until the conclusion of this investigation.

“Last week, Councilmember Evans attempted to present his case to Councilmembers in response to the release of a memo from a law firm hired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to investigate Evans. This memo illustrated that Mr. Evans was not forthcoming and not truthful with his colleagues and the public about the findings of the WMATA investigation.

“My colleagues and I asked many questions, including the nature of the relationship between Mr. Evans and his consulting firm NSE Consulting with lobbyist Bill Jarvis. Councilmember Evans maintained that Mr. Jarvis was merely a long-time friend who helped file the paperwork creating NSE Consulting. However, over the weekend The Washington Post ran a story contradicting Mr. Evans’ claims yet again, summarizing e-mails demonstrating that Mr. Jarvis acted on behalf of the firm by negotiating contracts with potential clients.

“It is no longer possible to trust anything that Councilmember Evans has told us since this ordeal began. Councilmember Evans lied about what happened with the WMATA report, and now he’s lying about the nature of his relationship with a well-known lobbyist, Mr. Jarvis. We must now question votes and actions he has taken on the Council during his many years as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee, and particularly during the past decade in which he has not once recused himself from a Council vote.

“Especially troubling is his rush to legalize sports wagering and to sole-source the contract to ensure his business partner’s client remains the incumbent vendor. The relationship between Councilmember Evans and Intralot’s lobbyist Bill Jarvis only reinforces my view that we should disapprove the proposed $215 million lottery and sports wagering contract, decouple the two issues, and open both to competition.

“This is an unfortunate situation of our own making. The Council failed to address the allegations of Councilmember Evans’ corruption, conflicts of interest, and misconduct when they first surfaced in early 2018. At that time I privately requested that Chairman Mendelson create an ad hoc committee made up of five Councilmembers to investigate. I re-iterated those calls in the subsequent months as new allegations and information came to light. The Chairman still has not appointed an ad hoc committee and has indicated that he is unlikely to do so until the fall.

“Rather than investigating these allegations at the first hint of wrongdoing, it has taken the work of the press to bring Councilmember Evans’ conflicts and dishonesty to light. We are continually distracted by new allegations of wrongdoing or new information that casts doubt on Councilmember Evans’ honesty. Who knows what else this week will bring? Further distraction can be avoided if Councilmember Evans takes the appropriate action by resigning from the Council.”

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Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on the ethical issues plaguing Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Evans’ ethical lapses have created a terrible distraction for the Council of the District of Columbia and it is preventing this body from moving forward with its work in a manner that instills trust and confidence in the public. The Council has abdicated its responsibility to conduct an investigation of one of its members–to its own detriment. We cannot continue to incrementally sanction Councilmember Evans based on a slow trickle of information from media outlets. Only a full investigation will provide Councilmembers with the necessary information to act appropriately and with finality.

"Chairman Mendelson must appoint an ad hoc committee to fully investigate Councilmember Evans and Councilmember Evans should be removed from all Committees while that investigation moves forward."

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Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on recent news reports of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ethics investigation into Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Jack Evans’ reputation and ability to faithfully represent the people of the District of Columbia to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are beyond repair and he should resign from the Board of Directors immediately.

"Councilmember Evans has represented the citizens of the District of Columbia on the WMATA Board since 2015. In that time, he has 'knowingly' engaged in 'a pattern of conduct in which Evans attempted to and did help his friends and clients and served their interests' rather than the interests of WMATA or D.C. residents. Worse still, his attempt to obfuscate WMATA’s Ethics Committee’s findings have tarnished the District’s reputation in the eyes of our partner jurisdictions. There are 12 other members of the Council who could bring a strong, ethical, diverse, and respected voice to the WMATA Board and begin to repair our critical regional relationships.

"Furthermore, Councilmember Evans’ actions throughout the WMATA ethics investigation and his statements this week have called into question his honesty. His entire strategy is to avoid public accountability for his actions. By eschewing an ad hoc committee to investigate Councilmember Evans’ potential violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct in favor of a mere reprimand and minor committee reassignments, the Council has abdicated its responsibility to hold its members accountable.

"If the WMATA Ethics Committee can investigate without interference from federal authorities, the Council should do the same and hold Councilmember Evans accountable. I grow increasingly concerned that our failure to conduct a thorough and full investigation will allow further media reports of Councilmember Evans’ behavior to distract the Council from its work on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia and corrode the public trust.

"The people of the District of Columbia deserve a full accounting of the misuse of his public office and potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. I urge Chairman Mendelson to immediately appoint an ad hoc committee to carry out this task."

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Grosso revives efforts to reform constituent service funds

For Immediate Release: 
April 2, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso revives efforts to reform constituent service funds

Washington, D.C. – Often misused constituent service funds could see radical change aimed at improving the provision of assistance to constituents and reducing the influence of private donors under new legislation introduced by Councilmember David Grosso today.

Constituent service funds allow elected officials in the District of Columbia to raise money from private donors and provide emergency assistance to residents when a financial need arises.

However, a recent report from the non-profit Public Citizen entitled Misused, Inequitable and Ethically Fraught found that, in the last seven years, only a quarter of expenditures from constituent service funds have been used to meet the immediate needs of D.C. residents.

Rather than using funds to help residents pay bills, buy groceries, or make funeral arrangements, some elected officials have purchased items like sports tickets and branded t-shirts or calendars.

“Worse than what these funds are misused for is where the money comes from. Private donations­–from those seeking business with D.C. government or campaign funders who have reached their contribution limits–raise the specter of pay-to-play politics,” said Grosso, who does not maintain a constituent service fund because of the ethical challenges they present.

The Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019 establishes a central, publicly-funded constituent service fund for the Mayor, Attorney General, and the members of the Council, providing each the ability to direct up to $40,000 annually for immediate constituent needs.

The legislation also adds new limits on constituent service funds expenditures, specifically prohibiting questionable perks like sports tickets and branded advertising, and empowers the Chief Financial Officer to administer the program and approve expenditures.

“The bill I introduced today would allow us to both meet the immediate needs of constituents while also removing the undue influence of monied interests in this important work,” Grosso said.

It further prohibits private donations or transfers from unused funds campaign, transition, inaugural and legal defense accounts to constituent service funds.

“This legislation builds on the work undertaken in recent years to put our ethical house in order, continuing us down the road that both the Fair Elections and Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Acts have set us on to win back the public’s trust in our work,” Grosso said.

Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, and Robert White joined Grosso as co-introducers of the bill.

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Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019

Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: April 2, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Campaign Finance Act of 2011 to repeal the existing constituent-service program and related language; and to amend Chapter 3 of Title 47 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish a government-funded constituent services program.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, I am introducing the Constituent Service Fund Reform Amendment Act of 2019.

Misused, Inequitable and Ethically Fraught. That’s the title of a report on the use of Constituent Service Funds by councilmembers, released last week by Public Citizen.

The report found that, in the last seven years, only a quarter of expenditures from constituent service funds have been used to meet the immediate needs of our residents.

Sports tickets, branded t-shirts, membership dues, calendars, greeting cards¬–the list goes on–are just some of the items that have been purchased with funds intended to help our residents in need pay bills, buy groceries, or make funeral arrangements.

Worse than what the money is used for (or rather NOT used for) is where the money comes from.

Private donations raise the specter of pay-to-play politics, with maxed out campaign donors and those seeking government business able to further contribute financially to an elected official.

Last year, as part of the debate and passage of the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2017, which became effective law two weeks ago, provisions to reform constituent service funds were removed at the markup.

During that debate councilmembers touted the important role these funds play in helping their constituents on a day to day basis and raised concerns about meeting constituents’ needs if we were to eliminate these funds or place restrictions on donations to them.

The bill I am introducing today would allow us to both meet those IMMEDIATE needs of constituents while also removing the undue influence of monied interests in this important work.

The legislation establishes a central, publicly-funded constituent service fund for the Mayor, Attorney General, and the members of the Council, providing each the ability to direct up to $40,000 annually for immediate constituent needs.

Elected officials will not be able to solicit donations from private donors or move unused campaign, transition, and other funds to constituent service funds, removing even the appearance of corruption from the equation.

New requirements will ensure expenditures directly benefit constituents and prohibits using funds on questionable perks like sports tickets and branded advertising.

And finally, the bill empowers the Chief Financial Officer to administer the program and approve expenditures, creating a new system of accountability and removing the burden from the Office of Campaign Finance.

This legislation builds on the work undertaken in recent years to put our ethical house in order, continuing us down the road that both the Fair Elections and Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Acts have set us on to win back the public’s trust in our work.

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Councilmember Grosso remains committed to a special Council investigation of Councilmember Evans’ behavior

For Immediate Release:
March 5, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso remains committed to a special Council investigation of Councilmember Evans’ behavior

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso on Chairman Phil Mendelson's proposed reprimand of Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Chairman Mendelson’s proposed reprimand of Councilmember Evans is merely a slap on the wrist, allowing the Council to check a box and move on. It stops short of any real accountability as Councilmember Evans will remain at the helm of the powerful Finance and Revenue Committee from which he peddled his influence using the prestige of his office. Additionally, he remains on the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, which has oversight of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. True consequences for his behavior should necessitate the reorganization of the current committee structure.

"Based on media reports over the past year, this does not appear to be an isolated incident, but rather a pattern of behavior. While I appreciate the role of the press in bringing Councilmember Evans’ actions to light, it is incumbent upon the Council to conduct its own investigation into the extent to which our colleague has violated our Code of Conduct, policies, and laws and ensure public trust in the work of this body.

“If we solely rely on the press as our investigative branch, we could be back here in a few weeks voting on another reprimand, and then another. A full Council investigation by an ad hoc committee appointed by the Chairman will provide a thorough accounting and then allow the Council to weigh its full options to hold Councilmember Evans accountable."

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Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

For Immediate Release: 
March 22, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation to encourage greater participation in District of Columbia elections by providing for public financing for campaigns, shifting power and influence from big donors to smaller, individual contributors.

“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”

Under the legislation, the Fair Elections Act of 2017, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments. In exchange for receiving public financing, participating candidates would no longer be able to accept direct corporate contributions or traditional political action committee (PAC) contributions.

The contribution limits and matching funds are tiered by the office being sought, ranging from a limit of $20 for Ward State Board of Education candidates to $200 for mayor. Candidates would receive a 2-to-1 match before qualifying for the ballot, then a 5-to-1 match after.

“In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office,” Grosso said.  “This bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents.”

Eight of Grosso’s colleagues, Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White, and Brianne Nadeau, joined him as co-introducers.

“The Fair Elections bill is about putting more power in the hands of DC residents. Changing the way we fund campaigns in a way that prioritizes the low-dollar donor means candidates can spend more time focused on their constituents and neighbors, rather than chasing big-dollar donors,” said Councilmember Charles Allen, chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, to which the bill was referred.

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Fair Elections Act of 2017

Fair Elections Act of 2017

Introduced: March 22, 2017

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Trayon White

Summary: To reform campaign financing and to provide for publicly funded political campaigns.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White and Brianne Nadeau, I am reintroducing the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.”

Since I’ve been in office, I have introduced some version of this bill in every Council period because I believe strongly that public financing of elections is one of the most vital tools to combat the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending.

As we all know, campaign donations are a necessary, though sometimes complicated aspect of politics.

Support for candidates in the District of Columbia today generally comes from three sources: Friends of a candidate who know his or her qualifications and support their aspirations for democracy and the common good; Citizens who have views on governance and public policy, or citizens with grievances with governance; and individuals with commercial interests that either benefit or risk loss due to decisions of governance.

All of these sources are appropriate in a functioning democracy; however, the situation we face today is that we are out of balance—big donors outweigh the ability of others’ to influence campaigns.

My legislation helps to restore that balance by establishing a robust public financing program.

In Council Period 21, then-Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, Councilmember McDuffie held a hearing on this bill, which brought about important feedback and healthy criticism.

Following that hearing, my staff worked to make the changes recommended by the Attorney General and completed an in-depth analysis of the previous3 election cycles to understand what is truly needed to run a successful campaign in the District of Columbia.

Under the legislation, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments, the latter both before qualifying for the ballot and after.

In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office.  Establishing this system will allow those who may not have personal wealth or access to high-powered connections to launch competitive campaigns.

This is bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents and I hope that all of my colleagues will stand up for publicly funded elections and cosponsor this legislation.

I yield the remainder of my time to my co-introducers and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Campaign finance reform goes local

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Campaign finance reform goes local

It’s a wet, chilly December morning in the nation’s capital, but the mood is upbeat in the Wilson Building, the seat of city government in Washington. D.C. Here council member David Grosso is about to unveil his latest campaign finance reform bill.

“I’m excited to be here this morning for this press conference,” he told a crowd of supporters. Grosso called the press conference to introduce what he calls fair elections legislation: a bill that would establish public financing for local candidates to counteract big money in city elections.

“For me this is about lifting up the voice of the everyday voter and making sure that individuals in the District of Columbia feel that they have the same power as the big corporations have,” he said.

[David Grosso announces campaign finance reform legislation.]

David Grosso announces campaign finance reform legislation.

Office of Council Member David Grosso

Earlier, Grosso told me he modeled his legislation after a public financing law in Connecticut, and he noticed that Seattle voters passed a measure establishing publicly funded vouchers that voters can hand out to candidates. Maine voters updated their public financing system too.  Grosso said there is a common theme across it all.

“The Supreme Court has ruled; I think the Congress members aren’t doing much of anything at all, so they’re really kind of stuck," he said. "So, all these local jurisdictions are starting to say, 'Hey, we can try to tackle this on our own.'”

Nick Penniman wants to help those local jurisdictions. He heads a campaign finance reform group called Issue One.  He wants to help local lawmakers like Grosso introduce legislation on things like public financing of elections, ethics, and lobbying reform. His plan?  Develop boilerplate reform legislation for local politicians.  

“We want to be able to give them great models that they can pull off the shelf, slap their name on, file and begin fighting for reform at the state and local level,” he said.

There’s just one problem.   A few problems, actually, according to Richard Briffault.  He’s an expert on campaign finance law at Columbia University.  Voters can have mixed feelings about public financing of elections.

“I mean public funding has often been criticized as welfare for politicians," he said. "You get politicians saying the public’s money should go to schools or police, and not to campaigns. And that’s a popular stance.”

And then you have to get candidates to accept public money and the restrictions on private fundraising that usually come with it.  

“Public funding is not going to work, in the sense of becoming taken on by significant candidates, unless there’s a significant amount of money,” Briffault said.

Still, Briffault notes, it’s not a bad idea to pick your battles, and focus on cities and states where there’s an appetite for campaign finance reform.  For Nick Penniman of Issue One, his ultimate goal is national reform.

“What we’re trying to do is build momentum at the state level so that we can eventually surround Washington with victories and with energy that Washington won’t be able to bat away anymore,” he said.

Penniman said this is like the Gilded Age, the time around the turn of the 20th century when a hyperconcentration of wealth and political corruption led to major campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. 

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Grosso to Reintroduce Legislation Increasing Power of Individuals in D.C. Elections

For Immediate Release
November 30, 2015
Contact: Darby Hickey
(202) 724-8105

Grosso to Reintroduce Legislation Increasing Power of Individuals in D.C. Elections

Washington, D.C.—At the D.C. Council’s December 1 Legislative Meeting, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) will reintroduce legislation to establish a system allowing for public financing of elections in the District of Columbia. The legislation comes after Grosso successfully advocated for the dissolution of the FreshPAC and introduced a bill to close the loophole allowing unlimited fundraising by Political Action Committees during non-election years. This legislation is the latest in a series of elections and ethics reform bills that Grosso has introduced since joining the Council in 2013, including an earlier proposal for publicly financed campaigns.

“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”

Grosso’s legislation proposes to:

  •  Create a new, independent office at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to provide robust oversight of campaign finance laws and public financing of elections.
  • Provide public dollar matches for campaign donations to candidates of $100 or less.
  • Require candidates to meet a certain threshold of small donations from D.C. residents in order to qualify to receive public financing.

At 8:30am, Tuesday, December 1, 2015, Councilmember Grosso will join the D.C. Fair Elections Coalition for a press conference on the proposed public financing of elections bill in advance of its introduction at the Legislative Meeting. The press conference will be held in room 120 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C.

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Grosso Applauds Disbandment of FreshPAC

For Immediate Release

11/11/2015

Contact: Keenan Austin

202-285-6447

Grosso Applauds Disbandment of FreshPAC

Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso applauded the announcement that Mayor Bowser's close allies will disband the FreshPAC. Earlier this year, Grosso introduced legislation to close a loophole to prohibit the PACs ability to raise unlimited dollars in non-election years. Grosso released the following statement:

"Regardless of the legality of the FreshPAC and its operations, the unchecked influence of large donors in campaigns undercuts the voices of everyday D.C. residents. Most disappointing about the PAC was the overt admission that it would be used to actively undermine the balance of power in the District of Columbia. It is important that the Mayor and the Council have a relationship based on mutual respect, strong oversight and accountability. We should strive for collegiality, but the people of the District of Columbia expect and deserve a Council that is not just a 'rubber stamp' for the Mayor.

Now that the Mayor's supporters have shut down this FreshPAC, the city can begin to move forward to restore credibility with voters by removing even the appearance of conflicts between city business and our elections process by enacting stronger campaign finance protections. I hope to work with the support of Mayor to enact legislation to close this loophole, and improve the campaign finance system for years to come."

Grosso's legislation to close the loophole is cosponsored by a majority of the Council, and continues through the legislative process. In early December, Grosso will also reintroduce a campaign finance reform bill to establish a system of publicly financed campaigns.  Similar to the bill he introduced in 2013, Grosso's 2015 bill would create a small dollar matching system to give everyday residents a more equal footing in the political process with big dollar donors.  "I hope that my campaign finance reform bill can move swiftly through the Council to help reform campaign donations processes in the District of Columbia to ensure our elections are fair and every voice counts," Grosso said.

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Grosso Will Vote “No” on D.C. Jail Healthcare Services Contract

For Immediate Release
April 10, 2015

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
(202) 724-8105

 

Grosso Will Vote “No” on D.C. Jail Healthcare Services Contract

Washington, D.C. –- Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) released the following statement today on his plan to break with his history of abstaining from votes on contracts before the D.C. Council:

"On Tuesday, the Council is scheduled to vote on a contract to provide healthcare services to inmates across D.C. Department of Corrections facilities.  I will vote "no."  This decision was not made lightly; sometimes one strong, principled stance outweighs another principled stance. And, after careful consideration and a review of Corizon Health, Inc.'s well-documented history of failing to provide adequate medical care to inmates across the country, I must take a strong stand.

"In my time on the Council I have championed good government and ethics reform. I believe the Council's role in voting on contracts over $1 million can be used as a vehicle for corruption and I have consistently voted "present" on those contracts. Despite this practice, it has always been my contention that Council oversight of the contracting and procurement process is critical. Even if the Council was not required to vote on contracts, I would still work diligently to prevent this company from operating in the D.C. Jail given their objectionable track record.

"Awarding this contract would be an absolute failure of government to protect the health and well-being of District of Columbia residents who are in jail. Corizon's history of failing to provide necessary medical care, allowing extreme delays in medical services to persist and operating substandard facilities cannot and should not be ignored. The circumstances surrounding this contract are too egregious to overlook.

“Just as I have worked to encourage greater government transparency, accountability and heightened ethics standards, I have also grounded all of my work on the Council in the principles of human rights.  Our inmates, just like everyone else, deserve to be treated with dignity.  Those in D.C. corrections facilities have a human right to the highest standard of healthcare and safeguarding those rights is imperative.  Therefore, I am obligated to take this deliberate, important and principled stance against this contract.”

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D.C. Jail health services contract should not be awarded to for-profit company

For the past two years, I have introduced and supported legislation to advance and promote the human rights of every District of Columbia resident.  I understand that improvements to our various sectors cannot be achieved in a vacuum.  Real change demands government accountability, transparency and openness. 

To this end, I have been a fierce advocate for ethics reform, particularly as it relates to the Council’s role in voting on contracts over $1 million.  I believe that this authority can be viewed as a vehicle for corruption, enabling lawmakers to exert undue influence over the contract procurement process, and I have voted “present” on all contracts to promote and encourage a commitment to good government.  I have also engaged in oversight monitoring the performance of government contractors and the integrity of procurement processes through other avenues. However, there are times when circumstances arise that are too egregious to ignore, warranting immediate action.

After significant research, including a visit to the D.C. jail, meetings with advocates and a meeting with the CEO of Corizon, I determined that awarding the D.C. Jail contract for healthcare services to Corizon, would violate the human rights of D.C. residents who are incarcerated.  The World Health Organization’s Constitution enshrines the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.  This right includes access to timely and quality healthcare.  Unfortunately, Corizon has repeatedly failed to meet this standard. 

The company, a Tennessee-based for profit, has a well-documented history of failing to provide necessary medical care, allowing extreme delays in medical services to persist, and operating substandard facilities.  Over the past five years there have been over 1,000 lawsuits filed against Corizon for neglect and abuse.  Additionally, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Minnesota have all ended their contracts with Corizon for poorly delivered healthcare services.  Just recently, the New York City Council publicly challenged Corizon and questioned whether it was time to end the healthcare services contract, which Corizon holds at Rikers Island.

The examples of Corizon’s deplorable services are innumerable and while it may be argued that prison healthcare is in general need of reform, the District of Columbia cannot disregard the ample evidence of gross systemic deficiencies.  Awarding this contract would be an absolute failure of government to protect the health and well-being of District of Columbia inmates.  Even if the Council did not vote on contracts, I would work diligently to stop this one from going forward. The gravity of the circumstances have required me to take a strong stand.

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Grosso Announces Hearing on 'Clean Hands' Bill

For Immediate Release

September 18, 2014

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun

(202) 724-8105

Grosso Announces Hearing on 'Clean Hands' Bill

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Committee on Government Operations will hold a hearing on the Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014, a bill which Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced with his elections reforms package.  The hearing will be held at 11:00 am in room 120 of the John A. Wilson Building, located at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

The Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014, if enacted, will require that all candidates for elected office obtain a "clean hands" certification from the Office of Campaign Finance prior to qualifying for the ballot for any election.  Currently, the Board of Elections can fine candidates who fail to comply with the rules and procedures in our election laws. However, there have been many cases where fines have gone unpaid because the Board of Elections has little enforcement authority. "By requiring candidates to certify that they have clean hands, particularly when it comes to their prior campaigns, we will encourage our candidates to be more attentive to the elections and campaign finance rules," Grosso said.

Councilmember Grosso has introduced a series of election and campaign finance reform bills in an effort to engage the residents in the political process. Those bills include the Public Financing of Political Campaigns Amendment Act of 2013, a bill to allow candidates to run for office on a blend of small contributions from individuals and limited public funds; the "Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2014," a bill to allow voters to rank candidates in the order of their choice and the candidates with the least number of votes would be eliminated; and the "Open Primary Elections Amendment Act of 2014," a bill to allow qualified registered voters the opportunity to change their party affiliation through Election Day.

Each bill has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations. 

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Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014

Councilmember Tommy Wells                   Councilmember David Grosso

 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh                 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

 

A BILL

 

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IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

 

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Councilmembers Grosso, Wells, Cheh, and McDuffie introduced the following bill, which was

referred to the Committee on                                                 .

 

To amend Section 1-1001.08 of the District of Columbia Official Code to require all candidates for elected office to obtain a “clean hands” certification from the Office of Campaign Finance prior to obtaining ballot access for any election. 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this

act may be cited as the “Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014”.

            Sec. 2. Definitions.

For the purposes of this act, the term:

(1) “Ballot access” means the conditions under which a candidate or political party is either entitled to stand for election or to appear on voters’ ballots.
            (2)  “Campaign” means any organized effort to influence the vote of District residents affiliated with a candidate.

(3)  “Clean Hands” means free from debt; owing no outstanding taxes, fines, fees or the equivalent to local or federal officials.

Sec. 3. Clean Hands Certification.

Section 1-1001.08 of the District of Columbia Official Code is amended by adding subsection (t) to read as follows:

“(a) In addition to the qualifications of candidates outlined in this section, each candidate for election to the office of Mayor, Attorney General, Chairman of the Council, member of the Council, or member of the Board of Education, must first obtain a clean hands certification from the Office of Campaign Finance prior to obtaining ballot access for any election. This certification shall provide that:

            (1) The candidate owes no outstanding taxes, fines or fees to the District.

            (2) The candidate’s previous campaign or political committee owes no outstanding fines or fees to the District.

Sec. 4.  Fiscal impact statement.
The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the

fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule
Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(3)).

Sec. 5.  Effective date.
            This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(2)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.

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Grosso's Elections Reform Package to Boost Voter Turnout

For Immediate Release: 

March 4, 2014

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun

(202) 724-8105

Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced an elections reform package in an effort to allow more residents to engage and participate in the democratic process. The legislation includes the "Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2014," the "Open Primary Elections Amendment Act of 2014," and the "Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014."

The "Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2014" would provide a method of casting and tabulating votes whereby voters would be able to rank candidates in the order of their choice and the candidates with the least number of votes would be eliminated. 

"It is extremely troubling that candidates can be elected to public office with as little as 30 percent of the vote," said Grosso.  "This important legislation will increase voter turnout as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate that they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate. More importantly, instant runoff voting ensures that the elected candidate has a true majority support."

Grosso introduced the "Open Primary Elections Amendment Act of 2014" highlighting that the District has a growing number of Independent voters that identify with neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party.  According to the D.C. Board of Elections, in 2003, there were a little over 50,000 Independent voters and today, almost 76,000 District voters identify as such, yet these voters do not have the opportunity to vet candidates for public office through the primary process.

This legislation would allow qualified registered voters the opportunity to change their party affiliation through Election Day. 

Finally, the "Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014" would require candidates seeking elected office in D.C. to receive certification from the Office of Campaign Finance that neither the candidate nor any of the candidate's previous campaigns or political committees owe any outstanding taxes, fines or fees to the District prior to receiving ballot access.

"By requiring candidates to certify that they have 'clean hands' when it comes to their prior campaigns, we will encourage our candidates to be more attentive to the elections and campaign finance rules," said Grosso.

Grosso will continue to push for residents to become more engaged in the political process. During his first year in office, he introduced the "Public Financing of Political Campaigns Amendment Act of 2013" and more recently the "Local Resident Voting Rights Act of 2013."

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The D.C. Council unwisely revises ethics rules

By Editorial Board, Washington Post, February 9, 2014

THE D.C. COUNCIL has come up with an inventive way to handle nettlesome advice from ethics officials: Change the rules. That’s so much easier than changing behavior that people of lesser understanding might find inappropriate.

The council voted this week to change its rules of conduct as they relate to constituent service. The unusual move to change the council code in the middle of a term was, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reported, in reaction to an advisory opinion issued in August by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.

Having had to admonish council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) for improperly intervening with inspectors seeking to close a business for health-code violations, the ethics board thought it would be helpful to offer guidance in an area in which it admitted there were no “bright lines.” Mr. Orange had defended his actions as “clearly acceptable constituent service.” The thoughtful 18-page opinion by Government Ethics Director Darrin P. Sobin drew on best practices in good government and included useful examples of how officials should and should not conduct themselves.

We would have thought council members who claimed to want to improve the image of a body where there has been serial wrongdoing (including the forced resignations of three members) would have welcomed the opportunity to up their game. Instead, they crafted language to give themselves wiggle room in their ability to throw their weight around and practice retail politics. It’s unclear, for example, if Mr. Orange’s intervention on behalf of a campaign contributor would have constituted a violation under the amended rules.

Only two council members, David Grosso (I-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), opposed the change initiated by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D). “[The board] is doing what they were asked to do . . . and now we cut their legs out from them,” Mr. Grosso told us. Mr. Wells, a candidate for mayor, said the move sets a “bad precedent.” We agree and urge the council to undo this wrongheaded decision.

Not only was the move a slap in the face to the city’s independent ethics board, but it also sends a troubling message about the commitment of the council chairman and his colleagues to good government.

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The Ones Who Put Their Shoulders to the Wheel

By Jonetta Rose Barras, Washington Post, February 5, 2014

Copyright Washington Post

Copyright Washington Post

Asked to speak last week at a luncheon sponsored by the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations, I was supposed to offer insight about the city government and the current political landscape. But the lesson that day was all mine. I was reminded, sotto voce, of the critical role played by seemingly ordinary citizens in creating an ethical government, growing a vibrant city and refurbishing our democracy.

A couple of decades ago, the District barely had two nickels to rub together. Wall Street rated its bonds as junk, exacerbating the city’s downward trajectory. Unsurprisingly, some residents escaped to the suburbs and parts unknown. Others — Anne Renshaw, Marie Drissel, the Rev. Lionel Edmonds, Robert Brannum, Dorothy Brizill, Gary Imhoff, Terry Lynch, Greg Rhett, Sam Bost, David Mallof, Ellie Anderson, Ron Drake, Helen Haggerty, Paul and Barbara Savage, for example — never gave up on the city.

They demanded better management of D.C. finances, construction of more downtown housing, enhanced neighborhood commercial corridors and improved delivery of government services for the poor and working class. They helped fire residents’ imaginations, inspire new leadership and create an exciting vision of the city’s future. The District blossoming before our eyes today owes much to the work of ordinary citizens, some of whom sat last week in the ornate and elegant upper room of the DACOR Bacon House in Northwest.

It’s easy, sometimes, to be swirled by the pontificating and gesticulating of politicians in an election season. Sometimes it’s difficult not to be caught in their self-aggrandizing delusions, assertions of being once and future architects of all things good in the District, which get amplified by their insistence that people spend their days counting construction cranes in the sky.

An element of municipal growth, undoubtedly, can be tracked by brick and mortar. But a city’s true greatness is its people: their diversity; their shared values; their spirit; their willingness to work on behalf of the collective, setting aside superficial differences often manufactured by ambitious, sometimes corrupt, politicians; their determination to shape their destinies.

Chatting with attendees at the federation’s luncheon and other residents around the city, I was struck by their keen awareness of the moment in which the District finds itself. They were anxious about the mayoral race, understanding that a wrong choice could have devastating consequences, but not necessarily on those cranes or other physical components of the city. Rather they were worried about possible injury to the people: their psyches, their belief in government and politics.

Leadership matters.

It was refreshing last week to realize that at least one of the District’s elected officials understands that. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) endorsed Brianne Nadeau, who is vying for the Ward 1 seat held by Jim Graham. Graham was lambasted last year by the city’s ethics board and reprimanded by the council for behavior in 2008 connecting the city lottery contract with a Metro land development deal.

Grosso went against a tradition: D.C. Council members do not publicly endorse a colleague’s opponent. I have not always supported his public policies. I am against his push to legalize marijuana in the District. I am not convinced of the need for public financing of local political campaigns. But I have admired his determination to help create a new politics in the city.

Integrity is not a sometime thing, practiced in one venue but not another. The common aphorism warns that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In other words, we are, indeed, our brother’s and sister’s keeper.

The gray hairs have multiplied on more than a few of the heads I saw at last week’s affair. The strides of some — once energetic — have begun to slow. No worries. A new generation of citizen-leaders has been forming across the city; people like Eboni-Rose Thompson, Josh Lopez and Daniel del Pielago, for example, have moved in, advocating around various critical issues. Equally important, federation members also have reached out to some of those young professionals who have been arriving in droves, claiming the District as home. They hope to persuade them that seeing something and tweeting something is simply not enough.

Citizenship has never been a spectator sport. Engagement and sweat equity are demanded.


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Grosso Demands Stronger Oversight of Contracts

I write today to support Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, in his effort to pass a campaign finance reform bill that includes repealing council votes on contracts over $1 million.  For the past 11 months, I have taken a stand against this federally mandated Council requirement, and voted “present” on contracts that come before us. Continuous interference with the procurement process by the Council leads to an appearance of corruption that taints the Council’s credibility.

I am concerned that the contracting and procurement process is degraded and not enhanced by councilmembers voting on every contract over $1 million. The main purpose of contracting and procurement is to have a confidential process to ensure that the bids submitted for approval are shielded from political influence. The contract should be awarded to the company that presents the best bid and not simply to the company that has the most political connections. Throughout my time on the Council I have executed strong oversight of contracts being awarded by the Mayor’s agencies.  I have met with all interested parties and required follow-up reporting once the contracts have been awarded.  I will continue to demand vigorous oversight of every contract as it is implemented.

We must ensure that the contracting process in the District of Columbia is fair and efficient.

We also must ensure that councilmembers do not have the opportunity to improperly influence the contracting process to benefit their friends and campaign donors.

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I. Good Government: The D.C. Council

This is first in a series of posts by Councilmember David Grosso on “Good Government.”

Today was the most frustrating day at the D.C. Council since I was sworn in as an At-Large Councilmember last January.  From the vote to postpone the elected Attorney General to the continuous meaningless votes on government contracts.  I asked myself, over and over again, how is what we are doing here making our city a better place?  What are we doing to improve the lives of D.C. residents or even to make the government operate more smoothly?  These thoughts caused me to reflect on what it means to create a “good government.” In fact, what is a “good government?” What does it mean as the legislative branch to work towards good government?   

Any discussion of this issue must include transparency, openness, thorough work product, and ultimately accountability. Certainly accountability to the people of the District is our primary duty that should guide us to govern the city in a way that makes our city a better city.  A “good government” includes: ethical leadership; effective and efficient agencies; engaged and active residents; thoughtful benchmarking of ideas; smart lively debates; compromises; principled stances; a constant quest to do what is right to gain credibility; and smart voters.

I don’t know all the aspects of what it takes to create a “good government” but I do know that today at the D.C. Council I felt that we were not heading down the right path.  Members were caught up in vote trading of the worst kind and self-serving votes that leave the city worse off than it was prior to the votes.  It is time for a “new day” on the D.C. Council.  It is time for a positive turn toward a “good government.” 

Share your thoughts with me in the comment section or over email (dgrosso@dccouncil.us) on what it means to create a “good government.”  I too will be researching this issue and thinking about how my actions and votes can be used to move our city in the right direction.

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