BEGA won't reappoint OOG Director Hughes

Statement: D.C. Open Government Coalition Condemns Decision to Decline to Reappoint Office of Open Government Director

Washington, DC. February 1, 2018.  Today, the District's Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) voted to not reappoint Office of Open Government Director Traci Hughes to another term. It did not state the rationale for this decision.

Since 2013, Ms. Hughes has carried out the mission of this new office to promote transparency within the District government despite challenges and hurdles raised by her own government colleagues, including those within BEGA. The D.C. Open Government Coalition condemns the decision to refuse to re-appoint Traci for a second five-year term.

Last month, we reminded BEGA of its mandate to hold public bodies and officials accountable to D.C. residents without fear or favor. Government transparency is essential to prevent political corruption. To fulfill its duties, BEGA must protect the independence of the Office of Open Government (OOG). Our letter explains why BEGA should resist political pressure to oust Ms. Hughes, and what BEGA should do to strengthen the OOG going forward.

Pressure to replace Ms. Hughes has mounted in the wake of recent OOG actions to enforce the Open Meetings Act -- an oversight function rooted in D.C. law. In October, a Superior Court judge ruled affirming Hughes's Office opinion that the Mayor’s Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to publish meeting notices and agendas before meetings, and audio recordings or minutes after meetings. Earlier this week, the OOG issued an opinion that the board of the troubled United Medical Center violated the Act by voting in secret session to close the hospital’s nursery and obstetric delivery rooms.

BEGA should reverse course and reappoint Ms. Hughes to continue to serve as the public's open government watchdog. BEGA must also commit to protecting the independence of the OOG.

This statement can be attributed to Cori Zarek, President of the D.C. Open Government Coalition.

The D.C. Open Government Coalition seeks to enhance the public’s access to government information and ensure the transparency of government operations of the District of Columbia. We believe that transparency promotes civic engagement and is critical to responsive and accountable government. We strive to improve the processes by which the public gains access to government records and proceedings, and to educate the public and government officials about the principles and benefits of open government in a democratic society.