Everyone has heard the story about you keeping a list and checking who's naughty and nice. The assumption has been that the badly behaved would appropriately face rebuke or revenge.

So, what happened this year, Santa?

It seems you were a tad confused about the nature of punishment. Perhaps you were distracted by global warming; melting ice and angry polar bears would force anyone off his game.

Still, you must know giving brightly wrapped gifts to a bunch of crooks and near crooks sends the wrong message.

Felony bank fraud is a serious offense, Santa. After pleading guilty to that crime, former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown probably thought he would go straight to prison.

But he never pressed one license plate. He spent only half a day in jail and is walking around with an ankle bracelet. Last week, Brown reportedly launched his own business.

Santa, if Brown receives any government contracts, claiming he is a local, small, disadvantaged enterprise, you can bet you're headed for extinction.

Sure Harry Thomas Jr. went to prison for stealing more than $300,000 of public money meant for the city's disadvantaged youth. But that federal facility in Montgomery, Alabama with its arts and sports weekends is no Sing Sing. Thomas probably is sharpening his pool game, readying for his next hustle.

Hopefully, there won't be any caravan of sycophants escorting him home as there was for Marion Barry in 1992. By the time Thomas is released, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. may have wrapped up his inquiry into an architect of that redemption road trip, Vernon Hawkins, for the role he allegedly played in 2010 in that $653,000 "shadow campaign" to get Vincent C. Gray elected mayor.

Gray, who has a reputation for being long-winded and mastering the minutiae in every job he has ever held, has failed to reveal what he knew about those activities. Yet he has continued to pick up his paycheck while enjoying the enormous prestige and benefits of the office he gained through what federal prosecutors called a tainted election.

Despite the recent white heat of media coverage and federal investigations surrounding the 2008 and 2009 lottery contracting process, Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi were seen eating fruitcake and Christmas cookies, drinking spiked eggnog and opening undeserved luxury gifts.

Scofflaw legislator Michael A. Brown was voted out of office last month. But just as District residents began to celebrate, believing perhaps that misbehaving elected officials won't be rewarded, in comes Anita Bonds. She suffers similar proclivities. Fortunately, her appointment to the at-large council seat is temporary.

As the year ends, the District government remains an unethical mess and almost no pain or suffering has visited the perpetrators. You can understand, Santa, why folks have dismissed that naughty-nice stuff as all talk and no action.

Residents who want real change in 2013--the kind involving bad guys and girls receiving reprimand or castigation--have decided to consult a higher authority.

Wait, did you say amen?

jonetta rose barras can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com

Jonetta Rose Barras's column appears on Tuesday and Friday. She can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.