D.C. Council Votes to End Independence of Open Government Watchdog

Voting Tuesday (15) for a measure to place the beleaguered Office of Open Government squarely under the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA), the Council abandoned the concept of “an independent agency to promote open governance in the District of Columbia” that it enacted eight years ago.

The office enforces open meetings and open records laws and provides leadership throughout D.C. government on transparency issues.

The board will now control the director and opinions of the office may be appealed to the board. The mayor will be required to appoint one BEGA board member with expertise in the field but in general the Office of Open Government will be another unit under the board, similar to the Office of Ethics.

This plan, if finally enacted, will be a dramatic shift from the independent watchdog written into the original agency charter in 2010. The office was moved into BEGA later, solely to solve the problem that the mayor had not appointed a director, leaving its independent status unchanged in the law.

Board chair Tameka Collier was seemingly unaware of the law when she complained to the Council at the annual BEGA oversight hearing this spring that the board felt uninformed about Office activity and was not prepared to respond when aggrieved agency heads complained about enforcement opinions by the Office head, Traci Hughes. Read more…