A call from the Committee of 70 for City Council to investigate one of its own members overtook a press conference today where Mayor Nutter introduced his new task force on ethics and campaign finance reform. Nutter, with the nine task force members behind him, repeatedly refused to take a position on Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr.'s relationship with his controversial chief legislative aide, Latrice Bryant. Council President Anna Verna would not say if she would convene the Committee on Ethics to investigate that relationship.
Bryant burst into the news on Sept. 18 when she held up signs in Council calling Fox 29 News racist for investigating whether she was attending to personal issues while logged in as working at her $90,000-a-year job. The station took it a step further last week, broadcasting photographs of Goode and Bryant looking cozy while on a 2005 vacation in Jamaica. Goode has said a problem with hour Bryant's hours were logged has been fixed. He has also said he has only a "social relationship" with Bryant and declined to comment on the photos.
Pressed to take a position, Nutter said: "I don't think there is anything I can do about a staff person in a separate branch of government or about another elected official." Nutter added that while he had seen some of the reporting on Bryant he didn't have all the facts to make judgment.
Verna at first refused to say if she would convene Council's Committee on Ethics but then partly relented, adding, "We will definitely look into it. I will talk to [Council's] leadership and see which direction they would like to go." Verna also acknowledged that Council rarely takes such action. "I can't remember the last time that Council ever investigated one of their own," Verna said.
And there is the problem, said Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of 70. "There are 16 other members of City Council who can and should have a point of view on this," he said. "They're choosing a cowardly way out, which is to stay away from it all."