Elections Board Chief: Mum's the Word
In the wake of Tuesday night's fiasco at the Board of Elections and Ethics, the public and media have yet to hear directly from board Chairman Errol R. Arthur, who was appointed by Mayor Fenty in February and took over as chair in June. The board has left the question-answering to spokesman Dan Murphy, who released a short statement from Arthur two days ago. On Thursday, Arthur directed a request for an interview from the Post to Murphy.
Arthur's media shyness brings to mind an exchange he had with D.C. Council member Carol Scwhartz at his confirmation hearing in March. Before Arthur took the witness table, two community activists, Dorothy Brizill and Carol Waser, testified that they had called him several times but he never called back. D.C. Wire reviewed the videotape of the hearing on the council's Web site and we bring you this transcript of the enusing discussion between Arthur and Schwartz:
Schwartz: "Did you receive the messages?"
Arthur: "I did recieve calls from Ms. Brizill. I was nominated in mid- to late-February. I did receive calls from Ms. Brizill and one call from Ms. Waser. But when I received word of my nomination from the office of the Mayor, I decided early on I wouldn't talk to anybody about my nomination given the sensitive nature of the board and the ethical component behind that. I did not want to affect the process. I decided on my own I would not call anybody back."
Schwartz: "Is this indicative of how removed you might be if you are confirmed?"
Arthur: "As a membr of the board I have a duty to represent and protect the interests of the citizens. The board meetings are open to the public and there's a forum in which the ciitzens can raise questions about the elections. As regards to whether or not it's indicative of how I am, I rely on my [law] practice. When my clients call, I generally, er,rather I always call them back. In this unique circumstance, I decided it was best for me not to discuss my nomination prior to today's hearing."
Schwartz: "I do understand what you've just stated ... but I do think it's maybe better to call back and say that, 'Because my nomination is not confirmed and my hearing has been scheduled, I do not feel it's appropriate to speak to the media. ... I will take your number and we'll talk at a future time.' Because I do think that given the nature of this position, accessibility is important, and sensitivity to the issue at hand is important. I can't remember any board chairman talking all the time to the media, unless there were major cases going on, in which case the chair usually comes and speaks for the board. Given a senstive position like the Board of Elections and Ethics, there has to be hesitation in some respects before speaking. But at the same time, there's also a need to return phone calls to everyone."
Schwartz: "Not returning calls makes people think, 'Well, gosh, do we want someone to be in a position of such importance to feel ike they don't have to return phone calls for whatever reason?'"
Arthur: "I understand."
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