Purge of D.C. Open Government Office Head Draws Attention: Press Digs In and Skeptical Officials Want Answers

UPDATE 2-8-18: Washington Post editorial calls on BEGA to explain its decision, writing "given the questions that surround her departure and the importance of open government, D.C. residents are entitled to more information."

D.C. Feb. 5, 2018.   As public discussion builds concerning the unexplained nonrenewal of a key D.C. open government agency head, the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hear testimony from the public and the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) at a hearing Thursday, February 8 (9:30, Room 500 of the Wilson Building).

In the Washington Post Peter Jamison and Fenit Nirappil collected officials' reactions, in the online story Monday night headed "D.C.'s open government watchdog took her job seriously. Then she lost it." (Print headline this morning: "D.C. watchdog said she lost job after pushback.")  D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the paper, "She did a good job, and that may be why the board did not want to reappoint her." Councilmember Charles Allen (who will chair Thursday's hearing) said he "wants to learn more about" why the Board took its action since some possible motives are "certainly troubling."

Tom Sherwood at the Washington City Paper had more under the online headline "D.C. Ethics Enforcer Traci Hughes Is Out of a Job, But No One Will Say Why." He noted Allen's plan to "dig deeper" at the upcoming hearing. Sherwood reported the BEGA chair (appointed last year by the mayor) has met frequently with the mayor's top lawyer, and wrote that if the recent vote proves to be reprisal for the Office taking aggressive open government enforcement actions, it "would be a bad mark against BEGA’s independence as Mayor Muriel Bowser heads into her reelection campaign."

Kojo Nnamdi interviewed Hughes on his show Monday (5) along with Open Government Coalition Government Relations chair Bob Becker. Hughes told listeners "I resisted the pressure [to pull punches] and I do think that that's probably part of the reason that I'm in the position that I'm in today."