This, no doubt was prompted by the Harry Thomas conviction for stealing from a youth sports program, among other questionable happenings. Reading between the lines regarding "free speech", there was perhaps also concern about the recent dust up between Councilmembers David Catania and Marion Barry. I raised a question about the legal language, which resulted in an interesting request of me by the Board Chairwoman, which appears at the end of this post.
Specifically, BOEE was considering the "Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Establishment and Comprehensive Ethics Reform Amendment Act of 2011", including 3 separate proposed Charter Amendments.
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1) Proposed Charter Amendment V, "The Councilmember Expulsion Resolution Charter Amendment" appears below:
Section 401 (D.C. Official Code Paragraph 1-204.01) is amended by adding a new subsection (e) to
read as follows:
"(e)(1) By a 5/6 vote of its members the Council may adopt a resolution of expulsion if it finds, based on substantial evidence, that a member of the Council took an action that amounts to a gross faillure to meet the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. Expulsion is the most severe punitive action, serving as a penalty imposed for egregious wrongdoing. Expulsion results in the removal of the member. Expulsion should be used in cases in which the Council determines that the violation of law committed by a member is of the most serious nature, including those violations that substantially threaten the public trust. To protect the exercise of official member duties and the overriding principle of freedom of speech, the Council shall not impose expulsion on any member for the exercise of his or her First Amendment right, no matter how distasteful the expression of that right was to the Council and the District, or in the official exercise of his or her office.
"(2) The Council shall include in its Rules of Organization procedures for investigation, and consideration of, the expulsion of a member.".
2) Proposed Charter Amendment VI, "The Councilmember Felony Disqualification Charter Amendment" appears next:
This Charter Amendment, if passed, would make anyone who is convicted of a felony while holding the Office of Councilmember ineligible to serve on the Council. The amendment says:
Section 402 (D.C. Official Code Paragraph 1-204.02) is amended by striking the phrase "to be held; and (d) holds" and inserting the phrase "to be held; (d) has not been convicted of a felony while holding the office; and (e) holds" in its place.
3) Proposed Charter Amendment VII, The Mayoral Felony Disqualification Charter Amendment" is the final proposal:
This Charter Amendment, if passed, would make anyone who is convicted of a felony while holding the office of Mayor ineligible to serve as Mayor.
Section 421(c)(1) (D.C. Official Code Paragraph 1-204.21(c)(1) is amended by striking the phrase "to be held; and (C) is" and inserting the phrase "to be held; (C) has not been convicted of a felony while holding the office; and (D) is" in its place.
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Within ten (10) days of the publication of these formulations in the D.C. Register, any registered qualified elector who objects to the same may request a hearing before the Board, pursuant to 3 DCMR Chapter 4, to raise any objections and to correct any alleged inaccurate or prejudicial short title or summary statement.
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After they reviewed the above material, I had the impression that the Board was ready to approve it. However, I asked whether "ineligible" meant for the duration of the term, or forever. Also, whether this would prevent a dismissed Councilmember from running for Mayor, or a dismissed Mayor from running for Council. These thoughts were discussed for a minute among the Board members. Then the Chairwoman, Deborah Nichols, said, "this matter is much too serious to rush through", and it was tabled.
Then she asked if I would like to submit suggested language to her regarding and including the issues I had raised with my questions. I intend to do this early this week and if anyone, especially a lawyer, has a comment I would love to hear it. They further indicated that they liked having the public attend and wished more would do so. There were only about 8 of us altogether, including Don who went with me. I am also wondering why only 10 days is allowed for comment, whereas 30 days was allowed after publication in The Register of our write-in matter.