Updated at 12:37 p.m.
The D.C. Council voted late yesterday to delay the city's shift to an elected attorney general. The decision came as city officials grappled over plans to change the organization and authority of the attorney general's office under an elected official.
Washingtonians voted in 2010 to switch from an attorney general appointed by the mayor to an elected position. Earlier this year, the mayor and current Attorney General Irvin Nathan – who has said he wouldn’t run to keep his job – introduced a transition plan that would dramatically reshape the office, including removing the office's oversight of agency counsel.
During yesterday's council session, Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) introduced a measure that would push the first election for an attorney general back from 2014 to 2018. In his proposal, he cited the lack of any declared candidates to date and "the extraordinary procedural process" that led the council to weigh the proposed changes to the office.
The council voted 8-5 to approve the transition plan, which included the delay as a new amendment.
In a statement, the attorney general's office said today that they "applaud the Council for taking an action that will maintain a strong Mayor and a powerful, vibrant Attorney General office" in approving the overall transition plan. In a July 9 letter, Nathan informed Evans that the council did have the authority to delay the election, but he did not recommend doing so.
"The District's voters by a substantial margin supported the Charter amendment creating an elected Attorney General and did so with the justifiable expectation of voting for one in 2014 who would take office in January 2015 concurrent with the next Mayoral term. In my view, their expectation should be respected and fulfilled," Nathan wrote.
The mayor and Nathan's plan to restructure the office received a mixed reception. Former Mayor Anthony Williams and Georgetown University Law Center Professor Peter Edelman, chair of the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission, were among its supporters. Former D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti, now a partner at Schertler & Onorato, and Walter Smith, executive director of DC Appleseed, were among the detractors.