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DC Attorney General’s Office Slams ANC 2B Commissioners Over Censure Vote Amid Other Signs of Trouble

Accompanying images can be viewed on page 1 of the December issue 2017 issue pdf

By William G. Schulz

A harshly worded opinion from the District’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG), released on November 29th, reverses action taken by the Dupont Circle Advisory Commission (ANC 2B) censuring Commissioner Nick Delledonne, which took place at the end of the ANC’s hours-long September 13th meeting.

The OAG opinion — along with other signs of possible mismanagement — has led some Dupont Circle community leaders to call for the resignations of ANC2B Chair Nicole Mann, her fellow Commissioner Daniel Warwick, and perhaps other commissioners who followed their lead by voting to enact the censure resolution.

Commissioner Mike Silverstein recused himself from the discussion and vote to censure because, he says, he was told, it involved matters pending before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC), of which he is a member.

Asked by The InTowner for her reaction to the OAG opinion, Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) President Robin Diener said, “This ANC has gone off the rails. I am delighted that the OAG has supported following the law and procedures in ANC 2B’s own bylaws and Policies and Procedures manual. I said [at the time of the censure] ‘you can’t do this. This is libelous.’”

Mann has not responded to several phone calls from The InTowner seeking her comments on the OAG opinion.

Commissioner Randy Downs did speak briefly to The InTowner, but said he was not aware of the OAG opinion, had not had time to read it, and was unsure if he would be able to comment by the time of this reporter’s deadline, and has not offered further comment; none of the other ANC 2B commissioners who were also involved with the censure vote responded to our requests for comment.

Delledonne says the resolution to censure him was drafted by ANC 2B09 Commissioner Scott Davies. He says he has never understood the charges against him, but “it appears [fellow commissioners] were trying to get something from me by shaming me.”

“Censure of an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner is a serious matter that affects the ANC as well as the neighborhood area,” the OAG opinion letter states. “It represents the ANC’s official, public reprimand of a Commissioner’s conduct, and in ANC 2B, it carries disciplinary consequences, . . .” including removal from committees and from any officer positions held. The censored commissioner is ineligible to be nominated for any officer position or to serve on any committee for the remainder of the calendar year in which the censure is imposed, the OAG adds, citing the ANC’s Policies and Procedures Manual.

In Delledonne’s case, not only was the resolution to censure not validly adopted, the OAG states, the subsequent vote violated both District law and ANC2B’s own policy manual. The opinion further damns the proceedings for not being accompanied by any fact-finding efforts, and for the charges in the resolution itself being based solely on alleged behaviors by Delledonne, most of which are said to have taken place outside of an official ANC meeting and therefore not relevant or actionable.

“The ANC must take steps to assure itself that the allegations in question are true,” the OAG opinion further admonishes, by way of a trial or at least fact-finding by the whole assembly or a committee, and “which should take place in a confidential setting because the reputation of the accused is at stake.”

The resolution to censure Delledonne was handed out at the September 13th ANC meeting after having been added to the agenda less than 24 hours beforehand. In it, Delledonne was accused of, among other offenses, having been disrespectful and condescending to fellow commissioners, particularly female commissioners. But the resolution contains few specifics beyond those charges — mostly meeting dates, starting in May, where the offenses are said to have occurred.

Delledonne, concluded the OAG, was denied due process, which includes “the right to be informed of the charge and given time to prepare his defense, and the right to appear and defend himself.”

At the September 13th meeting, Mann and Warwick did not allow any discussion of the resolution, including questions or comments from the audience in the Brookings Institution auditorium where ANC 2B meetings are normally held. Some community members did try to speak on Delledonne’s behalf but they were dismissed or ignored by Warwick, who insisted several times that he was following Roberts Rules of Order. The OAG found just the opposite — that Warwick egregiously violated those rules.

Delledonne was not allowed to speak and stayed silent throughout the reading of the resolution and vote to censure.

Following the meeting, Mann declined to answer The InTowner’s questions about the resolution, saying only that she sought advice from the City Council’s Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions before taking action. We have not been able to verify her assertion, despite our attempts to confirm with the director of the ANC office.

An InTowner investigation shows a troubled ANC 2B under Mann’s watch. For example, no minutes of ANC 2B meeting have been posted online since August — a clear violation of the ANC’s own rules. What’s more, no resolutions have been posted since May, including the resolution to censure Delledonne — another legal violation. Finally, there have been no audits of the ANC’s financial records since 2008.

“I don’t think she knows what she is doing,” DCCA’s Diener says of Mann. While serving on an ANC is time-consuming, demanding, and an unpaid volunteer position, she adds, “[Mann is] not getting good advice — or if she is, it’s not coming through.”

Now, documents provided to The InTowner show that on June 30th Mann may have filed a false or misleading document with the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board (ABC), and thereby misrepresented an ANC 2B vote to protest a liquor license application from Dacha Beer Garden at 1740 14th Street, NW.

According to the documents, Mann first apologized to Dupont Circle residents for missing a deadline to file an ANC 2B protest, but then she filed a new document with the ABC Board which stated that ANC 2B voted merely to sign on to neighboring ANC 2F’s protest of the license. Dupont residents who opposed the Dacha license say an ANC protest is far stronger than just signing on to another party’s protest because an official protest confers rights to negotiate with the ABC license applicant.

Along with the OAG’s findings in the Delledonne matter, Diener says, the Dacha Beer Garden liquor license application fumble also raises serious concerns and invites mistrust.

“These are very grave charges,” agrees longtime Dupont Circle community leader, Elwyn Ferris. “I am very concerned about our ANC; I believe this ANC has abused their power. Mann, Warwick, Davies — they should be called on to resign.”

*Associate Editor William G. Schulz, a resident of Dupont Circle since the 1980s, has been a journalist specializing in science and investigative reporting for over 30 years.

Copyright © 2017 InTowner Publishing Corp. & William G. Schulz. All rights reserved.