- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The administration of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray engaged in cronyism, paid salaries above legal caps and illegally hired the children of senior officials, according to the findings of a D.C. Council investigation released Tuesday.

While the draft report by the council’s Special Committee on Investigation of Executive Personnel Practices found “clear evidence” of such practices by the Gray team, the mayor was largely spared.

The report states most of the blame for personnel errors “falls squarely” on the staffers who were responsible for hiring political appointees, then placing them in agencies: Judy Banks, the interim director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources; Gerri Mason Hall, who served as Mr. Gray’s chief of staff until she was fired in March; and Lorraine Green, a longtime confidante of the mayor who led the campaign and transition.

Still, Mr. Gray, a Democrat, blamed himself.

“At the end of the day, it’s my administration and I take responsibility,” he said.

The report also found “strong evidence” that Howard Brooks, a campaign consultant during Mr. Gray’s run for mayor last year, provided funds and a job to minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown to stay in the race to attack incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Mr. Brown leveled the dramatic accusations after he was hired, then fired earlier this year from a $110,000-a-year job in the Department of Healthcare Finance.

The report, released by the office of council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, brings some closure to personnel issues that dominated the first months of the administration.

However, the committee still must vote on the findings after returning from summer break, and a federal investigation on related matters is ongoing.

As former chairman of the committee that oversees government operations, Ms. Cheh called 19 witnesses who provided more than 25 hours of testimony from March through June.

Mr. Gray reiterated that he called for the initial city investigation but said Ms. Cheh did not interview him, nor has he spoken to federal investigators or a grand jury.

The report said two of five children of top-ranking officials, who were hired to the city government earlier this year, acquired their positions through illegal influence.

For instance, the report stated, Ms. Banks told her staff to process the paperwork for Nicholas Hall, the son of Gerri Mason Hall, a mere 20 minutes after she received his resume from Ms. Hall.

All but one of the children resigned under pressure from the political fallout surrounding the investigation into hiring practices.

The report also pointed out Cherita Whiting, a Gray campaign worker later hired as a special assistant with the Department of Parks and Recreation, did not receive a background check, though she noted on her application a felony conviction within the past 10 years. The conviction did not bar her from employment, but the check should have been done, according to the committee.

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