Vincent Orange to Resign from DC Council After Public Controversy Taking the Reigns at Chamber of Commerce

Quoted on Friday, At-large DC Council member Vincent B. Orange said he will resign his seat in the face of a groundswell of criticism about his decision to accept the top spot leading the DC Chamber of Commerce while serving on the DC Council, the city’s legislative body.  Orange, who lost his reelection bid in the Democratic primary in June, raised eyebrows last week when he announced that he would lead the business organization while serving on the DC Council until his term expired in January 2017.

Despite the fact that Orange would have continued to be paid by taxpayers for five months while also representing the chamber, he argued earlier in the week that the problematic period was really only “two and a half months” because the council is on a summer break that ends in September.

He resisted repeated calls for his resignation from the council and suggested that he was being held to a different standard, noting that council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), works as a law professor at George Washington University and council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), works for the government and regulatory affairs division of a law firm that lobbies the council.  In the past, Orange had advocated for restricting councilmembers from holding outside jobs while sitting on the Council, only to be aggressively shot down by fellow council members.  Former council members David Catania (I-At-Large) worked for both M. C. Dean and sat on the Board of United Medical Center, both contractors with the District. Orange, who is Black, appears to be the only council member pushed to this degree.

Orange had tried to tamp down growing criticism by seeking an opinion from ethics officials. He also said he would surrender his chairmanship of the committee that regulates business and labor issues.  But apparently it wasn’t enough; nor was his $135,000-a-year council salary.

Angry constituents, multiple newspaper editorial boards, advocates and colleagues on the council said Orange’s two roles were in conflict and called on him to resign.

 Although it is legal for council members to hold outside jobs, the council’s code of conduct says members “shall not ask for or accept, either directly or through someone else, any gift, gratuity, favor, loan, entertainment, or anything of value from a person who has or is seeking a contract with the District of Columbia; is regulated by the District; or has any interest that may be affected by the Councilmember’s performance of official duties.”

DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), who chairs the DC Democratic Party, told Orange in recent days that his resignation from the council would end the controversy.

Orange said he will leave office effective Aug. 15 — the day he is to start at the chamber.

 

[source: Fenit Narappil, Washington Post, 8/5/16]