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Alcohol board to reconsider vote amid new ethics concerns

Charles Brodsky, the chairman of the embattled Alcohol Beverage Control Board, is expected to face further questions Monday from the D.C. Council as it wrestles with government-wide ethics controversies including an ABC board member’s protest resignation and Brodsky's conflicts in a growing number of closely watched cases. Councilmember Mary Cheh is publicly asking about a legal memo allegedly issued by former Attorney General Peter Nickles that Brodsky has called a "private" opinion exonerating him from conflict of interest problems. "I don't understand how such an opinion would be kept from the public," Cheh said, noting that Brodsky read part of the opinion into the public record. "You can't pick out the parts that you want to include in the record and conceal the rest," Cheh said. Community activists and business leaders are expected to testify Monday on the agency’s budget to Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward 1), chair of the committee that oversees alcohol regulation in the District. The most recent ethics controversy embroiling the alcohol board led to the sudden resignation last month of ABC Board member and former ANC Commissioner Mital Gandhi. Gandhi and other witnesses said Brodsky successfully lobbied a majority of the Board to reverse a decades-old policy requiring distributors to store their supplies in the District on behalf of one applicant -- Washington Wholesale Liquors LLC -- which Brodsky allegedly said would become a sponsor of his business, The Nation’s Triathlon, and would support his future political activities. Gandhi also said that Brodsky exchanged inappropriate text messages with the wholesaler’s lawyer during a Board hearing. Brodsky recused himself from matters involving Washington Wholesale shortly after the vote. But public outcry and warnings from Graham led the board to vote last month to "reconsider" its earlier vote. The re-vote is expected at the ABC's regular meeting Wednesday. Brodsky provoked earlier controversy when he appeared before the Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commission in November to ask for approval of road closures for The Nation's Triathlon. This request was called “unethical” by former D.C. Auditor Matt Watson and “an abuse of power [and] direct conflict of interest” by Don Dinan, general counsel to the D.C. Democratic State Committee, because of the official power Brodsky has over liquor regulation, on the one hand, while he asks the ANC for something that benefits him privately. Brodsky has since recused himself from the Georgetown cases discussed. Brodsky has cited two private memos from the D.C. Attorney General marked “privileged and confidential as part of the deliberative process privilege” absolving him “of any ethics violation” for the Georgetown appearance, he said. Dinan said Brodsky can make these opinions public, including as a direct response to a request from Councilmember Graham. “The privilege rests with the person who gets the opinion,” said Dinan. “He can hand it out on the street corner.” Brodsky's business affairs with the D.C. government are not limited to dealings with ANCs and the ABC Board, however. According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Georgetown Dish, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has provided personnel, facilities, promotion and supplies to another organization run by Brodsky, "Achieve DC," as part of a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2008 in exchange for youth physical education services. Under the agreement, the Dept. of Parks partnered with Brodsky's organization, providing resources, personnel and promotion for triathlon summer camps run by the non-profit affiliated with The Nation's Triathlon.