A former D.C. government administrator has been fined $2,500 by an ethics board for his involvement in legislating a multimillion dollar tax break for Howard University, where he had been seeking employment.
The findings from the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability revealed that it appears City Administrator Rashad M. Young “inadvertently committed a technical violation of the Code of Conduct.”
As stated in the personnel manual, “Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with their official government duties and responsibilities.”
On the same day that Young announced that he would be stepping down from his position, Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter to the board seeking an ethics review of Young.
The review stems from work Young did for the District — starting in August 2019 — on the proposed construction of a new Howard University Hospital, in which Young and his staff led the negotiations on location, amount and types of financial support, zoning and permitting assistance, among others.
In April 2020, D.C. and Howard University reached an agreement that the District would provide a $225 million tax abatement to the university for building the new hospital.
On June 8, Bowser submitted the New Howard University and Redevelopment Tax Abatement Act of 2020 to the D.C. Council.
Throughout June, Young continued to do work on the bill. And on June 30, Young “fully believed” that his work on the project was done, the ethics board finding said.
In July, Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick contacted Young about a position at the university.
While Young and Frederick were meeting on July 14, a university employee who was unaware of the meeting sent proposed amendments to D.C. officials with edits to the bill, including a proposal increasing the tax abatement to $314 million.
The Office of the City Administrator contacted Young later that night regarding Howard University’s amendments. Young confirmed that he could not and would not authorize support for the university’s proposed amendments before the city council. Young then contacted Frederick, telling him the same thing.
The ethics board found that there is no evidence that Young tried to promote the amendments on behalf of the university, and there is no evidence suggesting that he tried to use his official position for gain.
In retrospect, Young should have recused himself from matters involving the university on July 14, “even though he believed that his work on the matter had formally ceased and he could not make any substantive changes to the legislation,” a memo with the board’s findings said.
Young accepted Howard University’s offer of employment Aug. 2.