(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Former Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other leaders who have significant experience with the District government have advised the D.C. Council in writing of their strong support for a proposal by Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan to change the lines of reporting authority for general counsel positions within District agencies subordinate to the Mayor’s office when the Attorney General position becomes an elected one in 2015.
In a letter delivered to the Council on Friday, former Mayor Williams and his co-signers stated that, “If agency counsel are appointed, compensated, promoted or terminated by the independent Attorney General, with no obligations to the programs and policies of the Mayor, there is likely to be serious dysfunction, unnecessary conflicts and even the possibility of stalemate and paralysis in the executive branch agencies.”
Under the proposed bill, the agency counsel – who, under the current structure, report to the Attorney General while working day-to-day with their agency director clients – will report to the agency directors and thus, ultimately, to the Mayor.
The letter, which was also signed by former City Administrator Michael Rogers and former Senior Counsel to the Attorney General Alan Morrison, notes that the proposal would ensure that agency counsel are appointed by, and loyal to, agency directors, who in turn are responsible to the Mayor. The proposal substantially tracks the model used in the federal government and in most states that have an elected attorney general.
“This policy represents an important step in sensibly structuring the District’s government to account for the upcoming divided executive,” the letter said. Agency general counsel “serve as core parts of agency management teams” and are “instrumental in advancing within the boundaries of law the goals of the agency director, which are ultimately the goals of the Mayor.”
In addition to Williams, who served as Mayor from 1999 to 2007 and Chief Financial Officer from 1995-1998, and Rogers and Morrison, the letter was signed by Chair of the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission and Georgetown University Law Professor Peter B. Edelman; and President of the D.C. Open Government Coalition and Director of Governmental Affairs of the American Bar Association Thomas M. Susman.
Mayor Gray thanked the signatories to the letter for their support. “As Mayor Williams and these other leaders who understand the District government have recognized, our proposal will allow the government to serve more effectively with an elected Mayor and an elected Attorney General for the District of Columbia,” he said. “The Council should approve this proposal before candidates prepare to run in next year’s election.”
Attorney General Nathan said, “Under our proposal, the Office of Attorney General will remain strong and robust and continue to serve in 2015 and beyond as the District’s litigating law office in the courts and to provide authoritative legal opinions. At the same time, if enacted, it will allow a Mayor – who is accountable to the electorate for the implementation of the policies and programs of an administration – to carry out the duties of the office without the potential for impairment by an independently elected Attorney General. ”
A copy of the letter is attached.