- The Washington Times
Friday, September 23, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has withdrawn the nomination of Robert L. Mallett to be chairman of the Board of Elections and Ethics because he does not meet a residency requirement — an embarrassing conclusion to an incident that mirrored a string of missteps by the administration.

Mr. Mallett, a city administrator under former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, had worked in New York City in 2001-2009 and moved back to the District in May 2010.

Under the law, a nominee must have lived in the city for three consecutive years leading up to the nomination. The qualification was reiterated in a sweeping elections reform bill passed in 2009.

“He is very disappointed that he is unable to send the nomination,” said Linda Wharton-Boyd, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

The situation prompted Mr. Gray’s office to alter its policy for reviewing the legal sufficiency of nominees to city oversight bodies. Going forward, the city will submit nominees to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General before they are announced to the public.

“Typically this review has taken place after the announcement,” Ms. Wharton-Boyd said. “By moving that review up on the time line, we should be able to help catch any legal issues before we go public with a nominee.”

Mr. Gray’s chief of staff, Christopher Murphy, and Ron Collins, the director of the D.C. Office of Boards and Commissions, discussed the issue Thursday morning and decided to move up the legal review.

“It wasn’t the policy before, because it was never an issue before,” Mr. Murphy said.

It became an issue when Mr. Mallett was introduced to the public on Wednesday. D.C. Watch’s Dorothy Brizill, a longtime city government watchdog, immediately noted that Mr. Mallett had not lived in the city for three consecutive years before his nomination, an assertion that appeared to catch the mayor’s team off-guard.

Council member Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, said she was not inclined to approve an execption for Mr. Mallett.

City officials said Mr. Collins’ office had been plagued by a heavy workload that was exacerbated by a vacancy on staff. The city plans to fill the vacancy early next month.

Moving forward, Mr. Murphy “will not sign off on any nominees and will not allow any nominees to be announced until we’ve completed this important process step,” Ms. Wharton-Boyd said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bowser has said there must be more people in the District who are qualified to serve on the BOEE. A committee report on the Omnibus Elections Reform Act of 2009 said the imposition of qualifications would not, as some had argued, “substantially reduce the pool of potentially qualified nominees.”

“Because of its status as the nation’s capital, the District enjoys an abundance of qualified potential nominees,” the committee said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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