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Proposed Ethics Overhaul For D.C. Government Faces Criticism

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A D.C. Council Committee held a hearing on new legislation that would overhaul the D.C. government's ethics rules.
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A D.C. Council Committee held a hearing on new legislation that would overhaul the D.C. government's ethics rules.

Witnesses at Monday's hearing on the legislation praised the effort and intent, but said the bill falls short on several counts. D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan said the creation of an Office of Government Accountability, a key feature of the legislation, would add another layer of bureaucracy and make enforcing ethics violations that much tougher.

Instead, he proposed expanding the subpoena power of his office. And Nathan, a former general counsel for the House of Representatives, recommended the council follow the lead of Congress.

"The council, in light of numerous and current and publicly chronicled investigations, should consider, as the houses of Congress did, creating its own ethics committee, with oversight over members and staff," says Nathan.

Another witness, local activist Dorothy Brizill, called the proposed legislation a "toothless, piecemeal" approach.

Council member Mary Cheh, who chairs the committee overseeing the ethics overhaul, says the hearing is a first step, and she expects changes to the legislation. She says the bill will not face a full vote until after the council breaks for recess.

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