By Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network
The DC Environmental Network Invites All Metro-Based Environmentalists to Our Monthly Brown-Bag Discussion & Networking Opportunity!
– Phil Mendelson, Chairman, Council of the District of Columbia
– Shana Frost, Acting President, AFGE Local 1403
– Tommy Wells, Chairperson, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Council of the District of Columbia
– Walter Smith, Executive Director, DC Appleseed (Invited)
– Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network (Moderator)
On September 12th at Noon, join the DC Environmental Network (DCEN) for an informative overview and discussion regarding the Office of Attorney General (OAG) and the proposed changes that might impact how government complies with environmental laws. Panelist will talk about the traditional roles of the Office of Attorney General and how Mayor Gray’s proposal would change the current setup.
Our discussion will be held at the offices of the DC Environmental Network, 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor. All are welcome.
– In 2010 the Council adopted the “Attorney General for the District of Columbia Clarification and Elected Term Amendment Act of 2009.” This act both codified the Attorney General’s obligation to serve the public interest and proposed a charter amendment to make the Attorney General elected, rather than appointed by the Mayor. District residents ratified this amendment later the same year by a 3-to-1 margin.
– More than two years later, January 12, 2013, Mayor Gray (through Chairman Mendelson) introduced the “Elected Attorney General Implementation and Legal Services Act of 2013” which among a few other things transfers control of agency counsel from OAG to their client agencies and eliminates the OAG’s current supervisory and coordinating role over these attorneys. The agency counsels would become subordinate to the agency directors and serve at their pleasure.
– On June 30, 2013, the DC Environmental Network sent a letter to the Council and Mayor expressing opposition to the “Elected Attorney General Implementation Act of 2013.” The letter quoted the Committee of the Judiciary and Public Safety committee report on the bill that stated:
“While it may be well intentioned, Bill 20-134 as proposed would return legal services in the District government to a system “we know by experience to be ineffective, inefficient and detrimental to successful legal outcomes on behalf of the District of Columbia.” In a bifurcated system, where agency counsel report to the agency director rather than the Attorney General, the independent voice pointing out pitfalls of law and ethics will be effectively eliminated. Removing agency counsels’ ability to provide sound legal advice without fear of retribution will do nothing to stem the embarrassments of incompetence, corruption, and graft the District government continues to suffer. The current structure – agency counsels reporting to the Attorney General, not the Mayor – ensures there is an independent voice focused on what the law requires, not what the Mayor wishes.”
The letter stated, “We feel this [Mayor Gray’s] approach leaves open the potential for insufficient defense of environmental laws designed to protect the health and safety of District residents and the elimination of the “independent voice” needed to support and defend our most important legal requirements. We urge the Council to reject Bill 20-134 and come up with a less political transition plan that protects the independence of what will someday be the elected office of Attorney General.”
– On July 10, 2013 the Council voted 8-5 to move the Mayor’s bill forward and added an amendment that would postpone the actual election of a new Attorney General until 2018. Many believe that this amendment undermines the intent of District residents who voted 3-1 to create an elected office of attorney general.
The DC Environmental Network is holding this forum in order to educate the local environmental community, and others, about the dangers of eliminating the “independent voice” that should, in most cases, be the voice that defends environmental laws even when special interests are working hard to undermine these same legal requirements.
1. Green Group Opposition Letter to Bill 20-134, the “Elected Attorney General Implementation Act of 2013.”
2. Committee Report on Bill 20-134, the “Elected Attorney General Implementation Act of 2013.”
3. Testimony from Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety hearing on Bill 20-134, the “Elected Attorney General Implementation Acto of 2013.”