For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D – Ward 5) introduced legislation enhancing the District’s Ethics Act by requiring a sweeping review of the city’s Code of Conduct, strengthening ethics rules governing public employees, and refining the authority of the city’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA).
In April 2013, BEGA issued a Best Practices Report, a resource McDuffie used as a springboard for the legislation – the third in a trio of ethics bills the Councilmember introduced in the past seven months. McDuffie, chairperson of the Council’s Government Operations Committee, has oversight of the city’s watchdog agencies, including BEGA and the Inspector General. Introducing the bill at the Council’s final legislative meeting before the summer recess, McDuffie noted that the proposal is aimed at “[changing] the culture of city government on all levels.”
A central feature of the bill is a mandate that BEGA examine the city’s Code of Conduct and develop a consolidated universal code applicable to all employees and elected officials. Currently, the Code of Conduct is enshrined in disparate laws and regulations, making it challenging for employees to know whether they are running afoul of the city’s ethics standards.
The bill also penalizes employees and public officials who fail to report suspected ethics violations to BEGA. “All District employees have a duty to uphold the public trust. By requiring mandatory reporting of infractions, accountability is cultivated from the ground up,” stated McDuffie.
To facilitate more efficient investigations, the legislation mandates the cooperation of District agencies and employees with BEGA investigations and hearings, and institutes new penalties for false statements and the obstruction of an investigation. Like the authority vested in the city’s Auditor and Inspector General, McDuffie’s bill grants the Board’s director access to most government records without a subpoena.
“Ensuring that BEGA can exercise independent and effective oversight is paramount,” noted McDuffie.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Government Operations for full consideration after the Council’s summer recess.