Should District Council Members be banned from holding outside employement?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

Council Member Vincent Orange ‏tweeted:

“The time has come for DC voters 2 decide whether DC Councilmembers should be banned, like Congress members, from holding outside employment”

“Council should pass legislation immediately requiring Councilmembers to report monthly income & hours worked from outside employment to BEGA”

Agree or disagree?

40 Comment

  • system must remain as is. jack evans has done incredible things for esqure patton boggs and all their real estate clients.. how will he be able to afford private school for his children without the additional quarter of a million in income? and without the dual role, how will marriot and big developers have a voice on the council. we can’t let our representatives be beholden to the average voter. corporations are people, too.

    • That’s exactly right, the council must be allowed to continue making special deals with businesses and developers or the businesses will suffer. Imagine what would happen if the Council members couldn’t spend city money (85 million) to demolish most of the historic structures at McMillan Park? The developers wouldn’t be able to afford to buy the 25 acres of prime park land (for 26 million) and convert it into high-rise office buildings that the people don’t want. The developers run this town and the council members do as they are told.

      • Accountering

        The McMillan haters are hilarious. The majority of people in the city support it, but love how passionate you all are, and feel the need to insert your (not widely held) beliefs that McMillan means the end of the world.
        Also, it is not a park. They are building a park, where none is now. Get your facts straight.

        • I don’t think you have a complete understanding of what’s behind much of the McMillan hate. I personally support developing the site, but that should have been done through an open bidding process rather than through a noncompetitive backroom deal. This is the big problem for me, not the fact that it will, one day, get developed.

          • Accountering

            Meh, I don’t much care. I agree, if it was done in a backdoor fashion, it should have been fixed, but I doubt it was. Just because the procurement process didn’t match your preference, doesn’t mean it wasn’t fair or right. It is currently a fenced off wasteland, and any improvement is better than nothing.

          • Please do more research about how this whole process transpired before sounding so cocksure in your presumptions; not a good look.

          • Accountering

            Plenty of research. I drive by the site regularly, and it is embarrassing. The city is getting a new neighborhood, new tax revenue, and reconnecting the grid. Looks good to me.
            If there was actually a story about this being a backroom deal or corrupt in any way, don’t you think it would have come out already?

      • I’m a person and I want that development. The chained-off, run-down “historic structures” are useless as-is.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Other: Allow some outside employment but limit hours (difficult to enforce but…), reduce council salary for members earning more than $XXX (I don’t know, say double the councilmember salary) from concurrent outside employment.

    • justinbc

      Anytime you introduce variables you allow for exploitation.

    • The outside companies would gladly compensate for any loss of salary through the council. If they have a council member in their pocket, it is worth the investment when dealing with multi-million dollar contracts. The hours the council member works has nothing to do with their chance of corruption. The council members make more than enough to comfortably support a family in DC. To add a potential (or intentional) conflict of interest is not justified.

      • Accountering

        When Anita Bonds was running for office, she pledged to quit her job at Fort Mason. She decided not to quit her job, when her bosses told her that they were willing to be flexible and let her work part time (at the same salary) and would be flexible with her council duties… Of course they did.

        • saf

          Fort Myer is an especially egregious example, as they have had all sorts of ethical issues in the past.

        • I’m late in responding, but as far as I can tell, you’re wrong about this. Her May 2014 outside income disclosure only listed $27,826 from Fort Myer for four months of work. Catania was the only council member directly employed by a DC contractor.

  • I’d like a 4th choice: They can’t be paid by any corporation that does business (provides services for payment) with the District. Working for The Nature Conservancy P/T while on the Council is different than working for Fort Meyers Construction, for example.

  • What’s the average councilmember earn from his/her council job?
    If there were solid conflict of interest regs in place, and those regs were enforced (i know, ha ha ha), I wouldn’t have any problem with outside employment for members.

  • So you have all the information, right now council members get paid $130,000 annually for their positions on the Council.

  • As Council members, they already make 6 figure incomes. Their salaries are among the highest of any municipal elected officials in the country. There is no plausible reason for any of them to have outside employment. It absolutely corrupts and is legalized bribery. The fact that these folks (including Catania) draw salaries from developers, contractors, and a bunch of other businesses that rely on political connections is just absurd.

  • YES – and I’m also skeptical of the ties between the Council and Metro, Pepco, etc. Our Council members can’t serve on these boards and hold these business/agencies accountable to taxpayers/customers.

    • + A lot. Smart comment. Although I think the metro board might be a little different, since the point of the metro member being on the board is to increase accountability. In theory or something.

  • It is absolutely ludicrous that our council members are allowed to hold outside employment while making six-figure salaries. They are already the 2nd highest-paid council in the country and need to focus on the issues facing our city right now – not moonlighting for lobbyists, developers, and construction firms.

  • Being a city council member is and should be a full-time job.

  • How can we really trust that our elected officials, like former councilman Catania, who was employed by MC Dean and its subsidiaries while on Council, will not put the interest of their private employers before the city government? What we know is that while Catania was employed by both DC and MC Dean subsidiary, MC Dean was awarded big streetcar and street lighting contracts, both of which have been big disasters.

    But my issue is not with Councilmembers having knowledge over their private employer’s specific DC dealings, rather the general matters that Councilmembers vote on that could effect their private employers, e.g., contracting laws, hiring laws, bidding laws, board seats. These are matters for which dually employed councilmembers are not currently required to recuse themselves, but definitely should. This City Paper article sums it up well:

  • Take a look at the accusations just unveiled against NY’s Sheldon Silver for a great example of what outside employment invariably does to public servants who are in positions to influence government contracts and development decisions.

  • This is such an obvious yes(*) … they get paid plenty, plus perks. Why would we give a high-salary and not eliminate the flagrant conflict of interest? All the comments seem pretty sensible, so what on earth are the ~200 people voting “no” thinking??

    (*) Graham also makes a fair point.

  • First and foremost – elect good and smart people (Ward 4 & Ward 8 – we are watching). I worry more about councilmembers who are wed to a very good – but by no means great – salary and will do anything to stay in office. I’d rather have tenured professors (Cheh), lawyers (Evans & Catania), and others who want to help lead the city – but have also proven themselves in other sectors.

  • Looks like all the Council members and spouses have voted now.

  • Allison

    I loved having Mary Cheh as a professor at school! Not all outside employment is necessarily a huge conflict of interest, but I could see how some jobs have a much higher potential conflict than others.

    • Cheh’s side gig can easily have conflicts. How do we know she’s representing the interests of the City or GW when she’s voting on laws that affect employees and employers? GW is DC’s largest private employer. What about confirming zoning commission appointees? GW is DC’s largest landholder.

  • Allison

    Hell, I’m a relatively low level fed and even I have to fill out an annual report of any and all outside compensation.

  • I reflexively said yes, but if there’s any hope of not having career politicians and for normal people to hold these kinds of jobs, they should be allowed to work on the outside or maintain whatever jobs they had before the Council. That said, it should be completely and meticulously disclosed in a way that’s accessible to the public and they should recuse themselves whenever there’s a conflict of interest.

    • We have a great state rep. in my hometown who’s a high school civics teacher since the Florida legislature meets for relatively short sessions.

  • If you keep council members from having outside employment, then serving on the council will be a rich man’s service.

    • How’s that? $125k would be a nice raise for me, and most people in the area. Median HOUSEHOLD income in the area is $90k.

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