A bank fraud scandal that led to the ousting of the D.C. Council chairman June 6 thrust council member and GW professor to the second-highest position in the District’s government behind alumnus Mayor Vincent Gray.
Ward 3 Democrat Mary Cheh, who joined the GW Law School in 1979, will temporarily chair the D.C. Council until members elect a permanent head to replace Kwame Brown.
Brown pleaded guilty to one count of felony bank fraud at a plea hearing June 8.
Cheh’s appointment will be short-lived, with the D.C. Council set to elect an interim leader June 13. The pick must be an at-large member according to federal law, leaving a handful of council members as contenders for the spot.
A District-wide special election to permanently fill the position will be held Nov. 6.
With two top city officials affiliated with GW, a local politics professor said the University’s influence in city affairs is now under a microscope.
Eve Bratman, assistant professor at American University specializing in the District’s politics, said in an email, “The actions that Mary Cheh and the Mayor take in regard to GW are going to continue to be under scrutiny while they hold office, given their affiliations with the institution.”
The University has teamed up with the city on projects this year including a city-wide sustainability effort and helping shape the city’s economic development strategy.
She added that Brown’s resignation “will prolong already existing public cynicism over the credibility of D.C.’s elected officials,” staining the legitimacy of the local government.
Cheh said a statement June 6, she will try to restore confidence in a legislative branch battered by investigations and mistrust.
“I want to reassure everyone that the work of the Council will continue uninterrupted. We will move forward focused on the business the people elected us to do,” the second-term council member said in the release.
D.C. officials have long been subjects of scandal. In May, two former campaign aids to Gray pleaded guilty to campaign fraud charges dating back to his 2010 election race. That election is the subject of an ongoing federal probe.
Most recently, Brown resigned after prosecutors charged that he falsified bank documents to get a loan approved. He had faced a barrage of investigations this year into his finances and campaign tactics, and now will likely face about six months in prison after he is sentenced in September.