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Washington City Paper “People Issue” Highlights Traci Hughes, Open Government Stalwart, Among 21 D.C. Leaders

Fritz Mulhauser | November 9, 2018 | Last modified: August 12, 2019

Traci Hughes may have been denied a second five-year term as Director of the D.C. Office of Open Government, but at City Paper this week (8) she’s made the editors’ list of 21 “people who give D.C. its distinct character” and “who have something important to say about this moment in D.C.”

Reporter Mitch Ryals reprised some of Hughes’ greatest hits in his interview about her work as a sort of inspector general for problems with D.C. open meetings laws:

  • an opinion that the United Medical Center board met unlawfully in secret, keeping the public in the dark as they planned to close a unique east-of-the-river maternity ward; and
  • another that a commission on the selection and tenure of administrative law judges not only met repeatedly without public notices and other legal requirements, but also kept on doing so even when probably lacking a quorum as commissioners’ terms ran out.

City Paper didn’t mention the incident that maybe sealed her fate — when she got outside counsel and sued a mayoral advisory group in Superior Court and won, after her investigation showed they ignored a raft of meeting requirements and afterwards brushed off repeated offers of help to come into compliance. (Only the office can sue for correction of open meetings violations; no citizen lawsuits are permitted by the Open Meetings Act.)

As Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the Washington Post, “She did a good job and that may be why the board did not want to reappoint her.”

The Open Government Coalition has supported the Office of Open Government since its passage by the Council in 2010 and welcomed Hughes’ work as the tireless D.C. government advocate for open records, meetings and data. The Coalition testified twice this year to the D.C. Council to protest her treatment by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability and to oppose Council plans (eventually enacted) to reduce the independence of the office.

Hughes is now a Coalition board member. She briefly planned a run for D.C. Council this year, but suspended her plans after a signature-gathering snafu by a contractor. She told City Paper, “I don’t know that I’ll ever do that again. It’s a nice little footnote to my life…”