Alcohol chairman’s actions potentially "illegal"

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Mayor Adrian Fenty with Alcohol chairman Charles Brodsky
Mayor Adrian Fenty with Alcohol chairman Charles Brodsky
Two prominent legal experts have joined D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At-large) in questioning the actions of Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Chairman Charles Brodsky for promoting a sports event for personal gain to the Georgetown ANC -- a body that frequently has business before the ABRA Board -- calling his actions unethical and potentially illegal.  Brodsky asked the Georgetown ANC 2E at its December meeting to support the closing of Georgetown streets for The Nation's Triathalon, a business Brodsky founded and runs.  He then stayed in the meeting to listen to discussions about alcohol beverage license applicants, as reported by The Georgetown Dish.
 
But staying too late at the party may be the least of Brodsky’s apparent conflict of interest problems.   Matt Watson, former D.C. Auditor and recognized expert on government ethics, finds Brodsky’s public/private actions in serious conflict. “It’s clearly unethical and possibly criminal for a District official to represent a private party before a District agency,” said Watson.  As Watson explains it, referring to several federal and district laws, it puts both Brodsky and the ANC in positions of competing public interests.  Could an ANC vote against Brodsky's request in fulfillment of their duty as elected commissioners representing the wishes of their constituents alienate the chair of the regulatory authority that has great power over the liquor licenses that are so important to Georgetown? Might an ANC vote in favor of Brodsky’s request affect alcohol licensing decisions in Georgetown?
 
Brodsky faces similar conflicts.  As ABRA chair, might he favor ANC 2E’s advice when they appear before him because they voted to support his request for street closures, or might he  reject their advice because they voted against his street closure request?
 
Another prominent Washington attorney came to the same conclusion.  "It's an abuse of power," said Don Dinan, general counsel to the D.C. Democratic State Committee.  "It creates a direct conflict of interest if a person in an extremely powerful position over the fate of the neighborhood represented by an ANC, especially ANC 2E in Georgetown where liquor licenses are a key component in the quality of life in that neighborhood, to ask the ANC to endorse something that benefits him privately. That's an outrage."
 
Watson also commented on the situation of Mike Silverstein, who is both a Commissioner on the Dupont Circle ANC 2B and a member of ABRA.  On the one hand, Silverstein recuses himself from ABC discussions and decisions when Dupont Circle cases come up.  On the other, Silverstein participates in and votes on ABRA-related matters in the ANC. Watson said that Silverstein is “probably doing it right.”
 
There are, however, other questions, according to Watson. Will ABRA members favor ANC 2B’s advice because they know one of their colleague is a member of that ANC and he will return the favor on other cases?   "That kind of behind-the-scenes activity may give the appearance of impropriety,” Watson said.  "It's like a zoning commissioner going to a developer and asking, 'Will your build me a house?'"  He also wondered why the appointing authorities, the Mayor and Council, allowed Silverstein to keep his ANC seat while serving on ABRA’s board.
 

0 Comments For This Article

Anonymous

Seems like Beth Solomon is nothing more than the attack dog mouth piece of a bullying group of ANC commissioners. I hear repeatedly from people trying to do business in Georgetown that ANC commissioners routinely ask for concessions that go way beyond the norm in order to not protest businesses opening up. In fact wasn't this ANC the ONLY ones in DC to not allow their ABC establishments to stay open an extra hour for the Presidential Inaugural a few years ago? Does anyone really think the ABC establishment owners were behind that move? Its time that ANC commissioners got a grip on reality. Asking an event to show confidential financial information to get their support? Seriously? Do the ANC commissioners around the baseball stadium ask the Lerners for the same? Its no wonder Georgetown ANC has developed this mal-earned reputation as a bunch of bullies with someone like Beth Solomon fanning the flames. If she was a competent journalist perhaps she could look past the lilly white confines of the island known as Georgetown and see what a tremendous job this event has done to save the lives of children stricken with blood cancer. Apparently that is irrelevant so that Ed Solomon and Bill Starrels can enjoy their beauty sleep.

Dubious of Matt Watson

Matt Watson, former D.C. Auditor and recognized expert on government ethics, finds Brodsky’s public/private actions in serious conflict. “It’s clearly unethical and possibly criminal for a District official to represent a private party before a District agency,". Mr Watson you seem to have spent alot of time working the system. Since when is an ANC considered a District agency. In fact this kind of thinking is what emboldens ANC's to believe they have powers they do not have....like accusing this event owner of acting as a shame. I did some research on this event's website http://www.nationstri.com and was thrilled to see how much effort they undertake to raise money for cancer research. I also came to learn that their event generated nearly $7m in economic spending for the District of Columiba. When's the last time Mr Watson a business you ran generated that kind of money for the District. Same for you Ms Solomon. Rather than taking potshots at people due to perceived slights against the Georgetown ANC you should do some more accurate reporting and not simply rely on so called experts who clearly have no clue.

Dmitri Shepilov

Brodsky, er, I mean, "Anonymous" and "Dubious of Matt Watson" -- no matter how much you attack ANCs and this author, her argument is correct. It's a conflict of interest for a local bureaucrat to be lobbying neighborhood associations for his financial gain one week, and then deciding cases that significantly impact these neighborhoods the next. The issue is not how much revenue this triathlon brings to the city nor how much it provides to charities, but rather that Brodsky, a mid-level city official, is a financial beneficiary of the event. It's perfectly conceivable that the Georgetown ANC commissioners would be hesitant to turn down Brodsky's request for fear that it might affect his rulings on future matters relating to Georgetown liquor licenses and voluntary agreements.

Anonymous

Please let the cronyism of Mayor Fenty be over! And, please let us have a Chair of the ABC Board who does not bring conflict-of-interest to the job. While Brodsky is not the first chair to have serious conflicts (... remember Roderick Woodson, whose practice included the alcohol industry), perhaps he might be the last! Thank you Councilmember Mendelson for raising the questions.

Anonymous

Mike Silverstein is not the only ABC board member who is an ANC Commissioner. This arrangement is not only a conflict of interest, but also potentially damaging to both posts. Silverstein and the other doublers should choose one and not serve in both roles.

Anonymous

Silverstein campaigned fervently against Jack Evans and in support of Evans'opponent, Cary Silverman. Upon his reelection win, Evans nominated Silverstein for the ABC Board. Now, that's politics.

Larry Nelson

A businessman with the acumen of Charles Brodksy surely would know what percentage of his triathlon revenue goes to charity. I would guess that the vast majority of the charitable revenue is generated through participants raising funds rather than the organizing corporation actually donating funds.

Anonymous

Another ANC Commissioner (6A) who also serves on the ABC Board is Nick Alberti. His service on both has created a huge conflict of interest within ANC6A's business. When the ANC's ABL Chair brought a matter before the Commission regarding Brodsky's arbitrary rejection of our voluntary agreements (agreements signed by the ANC and the store owner), Commissioner Alberti refused to leave the discussion even after being asked, and then proceeded to defend the ABC Board's action to the Commission. So who is he really serving? The interests of the ANC or the interests of the ABC Board?

Anonymous

The ABC Board, ABRA, and the protest process are all a ruse.
Both applicants and citizens spend countless hours and $$$ and get capricious rulings, non-existent enforcement, and a PR assassination game.

It's well known that an attorney, guilty of fraud and forgery and reprimanded by the DC Bar, is still representing applicants before the ABC Board.

What a joke.

Brodsky adds insult to injury.

Anonymous

Is Mayor Elect Gray listening to his constituents? Brodsky should be asked to move on and the entire ABRA agency needs intensive housecleaning. Regarding Gray's picks, too bad he didn't have the courage and foresight to replace Tregoning so that we might have real city planning.

Anonymous

Does Jack Evans support Brodsky?

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