Ward 5 food wholesaler Sang Oh Choi knows how to make friends in government. Since 2002, Choi, his business, and his relatives have donated $18,600 to District politicians. Unfortunately for his customers, though, Choi allegedly isn’t as good at running a hygienic warehouse.
When Department of Health inspectors visited Choi’s building, they discovered, among other things, rat feces perilously close to a box of tomatoes. Before the inspectors finished, though, they got a visit from At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange.
Orange’s demands to speak to higher-ups at the Department of Health persuaded the inspectors not to close the warehouse for several hours, according to Board of Ethics documents. When Orange’s unique brand of constituent service became public, the ensuing kerfuffle marked the comic low point for the District’s elected officials in 2013. It’s one thing for local pols to be too close to their campaign donors on nebulous issues like city contracts, but this was literally about putting crap on residents’ plates.
Orange insists that he was just trying to figure out how soon the store could reopen and didn’t intend to stop the closure. Still, he agreed to stop interfering in health inspections and participate in ethics training. Months later, he announced that he was running for mayor.