Robert Spagnoletti, a partner at Washington's Schertler & Onorato and former D.C. attorney general, was nominated this morning to lead the city's new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray's other nominees to the three-person ethics board are also lawyers – Laura Richards, a recently retired career attorney with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Deborah Lathen, who runs a private consulting business, Lathen Consulting LLC.
The board was created as part of a larger ethics overhaul passed by the District of Columbia Council. The board members, assuming they're confirmed by the council, will be responsible for investigating alleged ethics violations by local elected officials and public employees.
Today’s announcement came on the heels of several weeks of bad news for the city’s political reputation. On May 3, former Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. was sentenced to serve 38 months in jail for embezzling public funds. Late last month, two of Gray’s campaign aides pleaded guilty to being part of a scheme to divert campaign funds to one of Gray’s challengers.
The U.S. attorney’s office is in the midst of an ongoing probe into Gray’s 2010 campaign. As reported earlier this week in The National Law Journal, one Gray contributor, local businessman Jeffrey Thompson, is fighting to restrict the government’s efforts to review millions of pages of documents seized from his home and office.
Gray, in a statement, praised the nominees’ “extensive experience in law, public service and ethics” as well as their “sterling professional and personal reputations.” He added, “I have faith that they will serve the people of the District well in safeguarding the trust that our residents place in their elected representatives.”
Spagnoletti served as the city’s top lawyer from 2003 to 2006, under former Mayor Anthony Williams. He was the city’s first attorney general, a position that previously was known as the city’s corporation counsel. From 1990 to 2003, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington. He served as D.C. Bar president in 2008.
Following Gray’s election in 2010, Spagnoletti served on his transition team. His practice at Schertler & Onorato includes criminal, civil and administrative litigation, and he represents individuals and companies facing government and internal investigations.
Richards spent 24 years as an attorney at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, including as a deputy general counsel. Before working at the commission, Richards was a journalist and also practiced in private practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Arnold & Porter. She’s a Republican – the board can’t have more than two members from the same political party.
Lathen began her consulting business in 2001, with clients including Verizon Communications and the city of Chicago, according to a press release from the city. She previously served as bureau chief for the Federal Communications Commission’s Cable Services Bureau and as a consumer-affairs director and counsel for Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A. Lathen has a J.D., but is not a member of the D.C. Bar.
Board members will serve six-year terms, although the initial appointees will serve staggered terms.