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From the Publisher's Desk...

Kudos for DC Attorney General Karl Racine

As a change of pace for this commentator, this month our thoughts in this space are happy ones — something of a departure, we admit.

Maybe it’s been the reality of how the Trump Administration has gone out of its way to essentially gut the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, by contrast, how our AG has made it a priority to ensure that DC citizens have recourse when faced with bad actors.

Not only to ensure, but to aggressively pursue –- and win! To do so requires many highly trained “junkyard dogs” and very smart staff attorneys, such as those who toil on our behalf in the AG’s Public Advocacy Division along with its Office of Consumer Protection. Combined, the whole enterprise accounts for 50 professionals.

Let’s take a look below at some of the successes as reported by the AG’s office (OAG) and understand why we are applauding what they are doing for us.

In an action brought against Xquisite Basements & Kitchens, Inc., a home renovation contractor, and its owner and operator a year ago June, OAG charged them with “illegal and incomplete construction work to District consumers and for failing to pay workers.” A month ago, on April 24th, a Superior Court judge ordered Xquisite, according to OAGe, “to refund harmed consumers, many of them seniors, and to return stolen wages and damages to workers, and pay civil penalties to the District.” Further, the judge’s order bans the company from providing home improvement services in DC for 10 years.

And just a week later, on April 29th, OAG obtained a settlement from Airway Sheet Metal Co., Inc. to repay its 40 workers an average of nearly $2,364 each in previously unpaid, though rightfully earned, wages. The AG ought to be proud of this outcome, especially as it represents, according to OAG, the “largest recovery to date in a wage-enforcement action in both value and the number of affected workers.”

Another striking win, especially for vulnerable DC residents grieving over the passing of loved ones, was last January 25th’s announcement of a settlement with Austin Royster Funeral Home and its chief operating officer, Jamelle Royster, requiring them to pay $280,000 in relief to more than 60 eligible customers who paid for “funeral services they never received or suffered other financial losses at the hands of this business.”

The OAG’s announcement further reported about its 2017 action against Jamelle Royster and her Brightwood funeral home “for misleading seniors, disabled individuals, and grieving families; overcharging for funeral services; charging for services it did not provide; and doing business without the proper licenses. In addition to securing relief for harmed consumers, [this] settlement resolv[ed] OAG’s 2017 lawsuit require[ing] the funeral home and Jamelle Royster to pay $20,000 in penalties to the District, permanently terminates the funeral home operation, and blocks Jamelle Royster from doing any kind of funeral business in the District.”

There are far more examples than we have space here to tell about. More can be found on pages 10-12 of the OAG’s 2018-’19 annual report; we commend perusal of those pages especially (in addition to the entire report).

And, there are other outstanding examples, such as AG Racine’s intervention in significant utility rate cases which we discussed exactly one year ago when we endorsed him for re-election. What we wrote then we whole-heartedly reaffirm now:

“[Karl Racine] turned the District’s Office of the Attorney General . . . into an aggressive advocate on behalf of DC’s citizens. The high competence and professionalism he has engendered among his amazing legal and support staffs needs to be publicly acknowledged for the significant cases brought and won along with major settlements and initiatives undertaken for the direct benefit of us all.”

In addition, there has been another aspect of AG Racine’s work that sets him in a special class of top state AGs. Of this, we wrote about “the respect he has garnered from AGs around the country who have acknowledged his legal acumen and tireless work –- including joining in cases against the federal government’s attempts to run roughshod over the rights of citizens not only here but throughout the country.” He continues to be a force at this level, right up to the present and will continue to be so.

In closing, we hope our commentary and its emphasis on what OAG is doing to intervene on behalf of all citizens, whether just a few who have been defrauded by unscrupulous actors or the entire citizenry facing obstacles to receiving fair and equitable treatment and respect will encourage all to not hesitate in seeking assistance from OAG. So, to file a complaint online, click here. And, to learn more about the work of the Public Advocacy Division and its particular emphasis on protecting vulnerable and disadvantaged residents, click here.