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D.C. Ethics Board Admonishes Legislator

Mallory Noe-Payne

The D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability has admonished Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) for interfering with health officials who were trying to close a business that was infested with rats.

In December, Orange asked a health inspector to allow Sam Wang Produce in Northeast to remain open. Officials left without shutting the business down, though they later returned. In its ruling, the board found that Orange had exceeded the scope of allowable service to his constituents. 

“Because Mr. Orange’s conduct influenced the [Department of Health] personnel to leave the site of the business without issuing the notice of closure, allowing the business to continue to operate for several more hours, Mr. Orange knowingly used the prestige of his office or his public position for the private gain of that business,” the board ruled.

Orange said that he was merely trying to help keep the food wholesaler open before Christmas, but admitted that his actions could be perceived differently under the city's new code of conduct for government employees and elected officials. Orange has been ordered to attend ethics training for violating the council's code of conduct, and will have his record expunged in six months if he complies.  

This is the first formal action the new board has taken against a sitting D.C. legislator; earlier this year it criticized Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) for improperly intervening in a Metro land deal, though it said it could not sanction him since the ethics violation occured before the board was created.

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