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Metro Report Finds Wrongdoing By D.C. Councilmember

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A D.C. councilmember violated the code of conduct of Washington’s Metro transit system when he tried to barter a Metro real estate project with a contract being considered by the council, an independent review has found.

The report released Thursday does not allege any criminal activity by Councilmember Jim Graham, although its authors are cooperating with federal law enforcement officials who are investigating the city’s lottery contract.

According to the report, Graham committed “a clear violation” of Metro’s standards of conduct when he offered to support a developer’s bid for the lottery contract in exchange for the developer’s withdrawal from a project around a Metro station.

Graham, a Ward 1 Democrat, served on the Metro board when he made the offer during a 2008 meeting with developer Warren Williams. The offer was rejected by Williams and his partners in the lottery bid. Ultimately, the D.C. Council rejected the lottery contract, and the Metro project was never built.

Graham disputed the report’s finding that he violated Metro board standards but said its conclusions did not especially trouble him.

“I’m pleased that there was no allegation or suggestion of any criminal behavior or any unlawful financial interest,” Graham told The Associated Press. He noted that Metro’s general counsel had previously reached the same conclusion. Graham ultimately voted in favor of the Metro project, although he voted against the lottery contract.

The report, prepared by the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, found that Graham’s actions created a conflict of interest between his work on the board and the council, and that he violated his obligation to act in the public interest in contractual matters.

The Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority board revised its code of ethics last year in an attempt to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof, and the report may lead to further changes, Board Chair Catherine Hudgins said in a statement.

“With the release of this report, WMATA has taken an important step forward in its ongoing commitment to openness, transparency and being fully accountable for our actions,” Hudgins said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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