Loose Lips

Did Jim Graham Break City Rules By Not Reporting Ted Loza?

Did D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham Break Rules By Not Reporting Ted Loza?

There's big news buried in today's Post coverage of the sentencing of Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham's former chief of staff Ted Loza, who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

The real news: Graham rejected $2,600 Loza tried to give him on behalf of Abdul Kamus, who was a kind of lobbyist for a group of Ethiopian cabbies who federal prosecutors say in court records tried to pay more than $20,000 in bribes in order to "secure advantages in the taxicab industry."

Says the Post on Graham:

Kamus also handed Loza $2,600 in an envelope to pass along to Graham — money the council member did not accept, according to officials. During a meeting videotaped later, Loza returned the money to Kamus.

Graham said in an interview that he told Loza to immediately return the money but was so shocked by the experience that he did not call authorities.

“I accepted nothing of value, including cash, from anyone who may have had an intention of attempting to influence legislation,” Graham said.

The way things are currently going at the Wilson Building, it might be easy enough to score Graham's refusing the money as an ethical win. He actually turned down the money! But it's not that simple. City personnel rules seem to indicate pretty clearly that Graham should have reported Loza immediately. The council's own ethics website lays it out:

A Councilmember shall report immediately to the Office of the Inspector General, or other appropriate authorities any information concerning conduct which he or she knows, or should know, involves corrupt or other criminal activity, or conflict of interest of another Councilmember or employee of the District of Columbia or person dealing with the District.

Given the fact that Graham told Loza to give the money back right away, Graham obviously knew something was amiss—or in council rules talk, he had information concerning conduct he knew, or should have known, involved corruption. So why not report it? Reached by phone earlier this afternoon, Graham said he was busy but promised to call LL back. He hasn't yet, but LL will update as needed.

Besides not reporting the cash, Graham still decided to keep Loza on as his chief of staff, until the FBI put the cuffs on Loza several months later. Graham may have been "shocked by the experience" of being offered $2,600 by his chief of staff, but it apparently didn't shake his confidence in Loza.

“I am deeply troubled at the indictment of Teddy Loza,” Graham said shortly after Loza's arrest in September 2009, calling him “someone I have grown to trust and have confidence in."

UPDATE: LL got a copy of a transcript of the meeting between Loza and Kamus, who gives Loza the money for Graham shortly after handing Loza $500 for his role in getting legislation introduced that would limit the number of taxi business licenses issues.

Kamus: Here—here. This is for you. And, uh, thank you very much for him. [Kamus handed $500 in cash to Loza.]

Loza: You know I need it. That's why I take it, you know.

Kamus: And this is for Councilmember Jim Graham. For introducing the, you know, legislation. And I want to —

Loza: And if he doesn't take it?

Kamus: Just let me know. You know.

Loza: I'll give it back to you.

[A bit later in the conversation]

Loza: But I'm almost sure he's gonna say give it back to you.

Kamus: OK.

Loza: But I'll let you know.

Kamus: Alright, sir.

Loza: Thank you.

Kamus: Take care.

Also, a reader points out that under the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act, any supervisor "employed by the District government shall make all protected disclosures involving any violation of the law, rule, regulation or [contract] as soon as the supervisor becomes aware of the violation." The law for some strange reason exempts council employees, but defines a supervisor as any District employee with the authority to "hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees," a definition that sure sounds like a councilmember.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • michaeliceman

    Alan, I hope you are not sitting by the phone holding your breath waiting for him to call you back. LOL!!

  • Ward One Voter

    Didn't JG also tell the media at the time that he had no knowledge of what was going on (or did he just say he had done nothing wrong)?

    While lying to the media and the public might not be against council ethics it certainly makes you wonder what else the CM may be lying about.

  • Truth Hurts

    So rather than taking the cash, immediately reporting it to the I.G. and FBI, Graham essentially got rid of felony evidence (returning it so the briber could give it to another CM?), told nobody, and kept doing business as usual with the briber's accomplice and his chief of staff, Loza.

    Add another CM to the ever growing list of unethical sleezeball DC politicians. Pretty soon, it may be tough to get a quorum.

  • jimbo

    The cesspool aka The Destruct Building is just about full.

  • noodlez

    WHAT ABOUT PREVIOUSLY? DONT TELL ME THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THIS DUDE TOOK SOME DOUGH UNDER THE TABLE.

    IM SURE IF GRAHAM DIDNT TAKE CASH OR BENEFITS BEFORE HE SURE DID KNOW ABOUT THEM. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED AS AN ACCESSORY.

  • DCGOVCORRUPTION

    It appears that Councilmember Graham received a pass by the FBI, since he should of been brought before a grand jury to answers questions regarding this bribery attempt and since attorneys/elected officials are covered by a different legal standard, he got off, why? However, the DC Bar may be interested in this matter.

    See the following story from the internet:

    The high-profile cases of pitching great Roger Clemens and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich highlight a well-worn strategy by prosecutors: if you can't bust them for the crime, try nailing them for lying about it.

    Prosecutors often charge suspects with making false statements to investigators in part because that is often easier to prove than the more serious allegations and can be used to elicit help from witnesses, especially in corruption and terrorism cases.

    Clemens, whose storied professional baseball career included a record seven Cy Young Awards for best pitcher, was indicted on Thursday for perjury, making false statements and obstructing a congressional investigation into players using performance-enhancing drugs. If convicted on all charges, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

    He has denied the charges he lied to Congress and will face a trial likely next year.

    "The United States is sending a message that you must tell the truth to the government -- FBI, Congress, et cetera -- and if not, we will prosecute you," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law in Virginia.

    Clemens is in trouble not for alleged steroid use, but for what prosecutors charged was his failure to tell the truth in testifying under oath to a congressional committee that he never used drugs to boost his performance.

    "Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who brought the charges against Clemens.

    Clemens was the latest sports figure charged with lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, a scandal that has tarnished other sports, including running and cycling.

    Former U.S. sprinter and Olympic medalist Marion Jones spent six months in a federal prison for lying to prosecutors about using steroids and was later stripped of five medals, including three Olympic golds.

    Major League Baseball career home run leader Barry Bonds is expected to go on trial next year on charges he lied to a federal grand jury about using steroids from a California laboratory. He has pleaded not guilty.

    LYING AS CRUX OF CASE

    The case is the latest in a series where an accusation of lying became the crux of the case.

    In 2005, prosecutors investigating who leaked the identity of a CIA agent ended up only bringing perjury charges against then-Vice President Dick Cheney's closest aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was never charged for the leak itself.

    Earlier this year, a New York Muslim cleric was charged and later pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Najibullah Zazi, who was convicted of trying to blow up the New York subway system.

    Blagojevich was convicted earlier this week for making false statements to FBI agents probing whether tried to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. The jury could not reach a verdict on the main corruption charges.

    Among the most prominent perjury convictions was that of former State Department official Alger Hiss, convicted in a celebrated 1950 espionage-related trial. Lying to a grand jury was among the charges for which President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. He was acquitted by the Senate.

    While perjury can sometimes be hard to prove, Joshua Berman, a former U.S. Justice Department attorney, said of the Clemens case, "The prosecution must have 'real proof' in order to even consider bringing a case like this, and that proof likely includes forensic evidence and live witnesses, rather than just hearsay."

    Another law professor said the Clemens case was a bit more straightforward than other cases involving performance-enhancing drugs, as a former strength coach has alleged he injected Clemens with steroids, while former teammate Andy Pettitte has said Clemens told him he used human growth hormone.

    "It is perfectly fair to bust Clemens for the real crime of lying to Congress, not as collateral matter," said Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University and director of the school's Criminal Justice Center.

  • DCGOVCORRUPTION

    FYI

    Jim Graham Responds To Ted Loza Question
    Posted by Jason Cherkis on Aug. 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Today on Kojo, Ward One's councilmember candidates held a spirited debate. Near the end of the hour, a caller asked incumbent Councilmember Jim Graham about his ties to ex-staffer Ted Loza. Last fall, Loza was indicted on bribery charges. We wrote about their complicated and troubling relationship after Loza was indicted. But Graham has been relatively quiet on the subject if not downright supportive of Loza at community forums. Today, Graham said Loza will get his day in court. And he said this:

    "I run a really tight ship...I'm a hands-on councilmember...Everybody has experienced somebody who has done something they were not aware of

  • DC Neighbor OG

    I'm willing to beat the dead horse on this one. WTF, Ward ONE?! He knew about it, he was "shocked", didn't report it OR fire the guy. Political careers have ended for much less (and at the behest of Graham himself). Just because it didn't result in an Audi SUV (that we know of) doesn't mean this guy deserves a walk.

  • Southeast Ken

    I bet if you get Miss Graham in a hotel room with 2 naked hot Latino men drinking and getting high, Miss Graham would spill the beans during sexual pillow talk.

  • RealDC

    Graham Cracker is corrupt as all the rest. He paid for Loza's mistress' abortion with his own credit card. While not illegal but just questionable. Graham earned rewards points or miles for an abortion.... unbelievable!

    The Wilson Building needs an enema!! All incumbents should be thrown out!!

  • anon

    Graham clerked for a Supreme Court Justice and yet he was so shocked he didn't do anything. Yeah right. Sounds like Graham was smart enough to see the sting coming, nobody has ever claimed he was stupid.

    He uses his constituent services fund to legally accept these type of payoffs, even though ethically it is the same as what Teddy did. There is no excuse for my Councilmember not to have reported a bribery attempt, unless he is covering something up.

    Disappointed in Jim Graham!

  • Bruce

    Alan-

    I've heard from someone on Graham's staff that he sent a letter to the court in support of a lenient sentence for Ted Loza. Don’t know if it was on his council stationary or a personal note.

    Why don’t you do a FOIA request? He might have lied to the court or omitted the bribe Loza presented.

    Graham is very corrupt and needs to go.

  • Bruce
  • Truth Hurts

    Graham told WaPo he took the money out of the envelope before returning it with his initials on it. WTF?

    Wonder what he would've done had it contained 10k.

    Anyway, good job LL. You beat WaPo out of the gate.

  • Elementary Math

    Graham's primary method of collecting money from special interests is through contributions to his campaign accounts and constituent services accounts. Did Kamus and associates make contributions there?

  • Skipper

    Someone needs to file an ethics complaint with the DC Bar against Graham.

  • rosesdc

    How about truth in publishing - that is a composite photo of Graham and Loza - so why didn't you photoshop an envelope of cash into the picture too?

    More seriously - Does not anyone find it bizarre and disturbing that this was all orchestrated by the FBI (how else would it have been taped/recorded)? The money to Ted, the envelope to Graham, the portrait of Graham - all FBI money. They even had their snitch go in person to the Wilson Building to get a copy of the legislation that had already been emailed to him, in order to tape it. The representative of "Middle-Eastern investors" that met with Graham - FBI. When it was glaringly clear from testimony yesterday by Graham's legislative aide that the taxi legislation was on its own track, that Ted had little knowledge and no input in its creation or revision, and if anybody wants to look a little more carefully, only idiots would pay for a copy of legislation which is a public document -- or imcompetant FBI agents bending over backwards to entrap someone.

  • Marie Cohn

    It seems the Councilmember has more skeletons in his enormous closet than one may assume. I mean, he's a lawyer and all, but isn't it telling that he was the council member selected by the FBI for this sting? Why not a different council member? Were there others? Of course, we don't know yet, but I'm willing to bet there weren't and that the Feebs had reason to suspect this council member would react in a way that would put him in jeopardy, which it indeed seems to have done. That's Karma for you, Jim. Love, Marie (and yes, I've known Jim (& George, when he was the asian playmate of the month) for a long, long time....

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