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Gray will cooperate with probe into staff

Says subpoenas are not necessary

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Tuesday that a council member's request for subpoena power to assist an investigation of his personnel practices is unnecessary because his administration will cooperate fully with the probe.

Council member Mary M. Cheh said Monday she would seek the authority to compel witness testimony in advance of a Monday hearing about the mayor's high payments for public-service workers.

"Whomever she wishes to talk to, we'll make that person available," Mr. Gray said during his weekly press briefing at the John A. Wilson Building.

Mrs. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat who chairs the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, said her request was intended to head off any problems before they occur and should not be seen as a sign of animosity with the executive whose candidacy she supported.

Mrs. Cheh said the mayor has been "extremely helpful" so far, and that support she provided Mr. Gray during his bid for election is "irrelevant."

"I don't think that should hamper me, and it hasn't hampered me," she said, noting she has "an independent obligation to look in this."

Her call for subpoena power is particularly targeted at witnesses who do not work for the D.C. government, including recently fired personnel.

"I don't think we're at odds," Mrs. Cheh said, referring to the mayor. "I'm just getting myself in a position to move as quickly as possible."

Mr. Gray, who at fewer than three months into his administration has heard allegations of nepotism and cash payouts during his campaign, fired his chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, on March 16 and had to trim salaries of recent appointees who were being paid above the rates authorized by city law.

Mr. Gray said his administration will also cooperate with investigations by the U.S. attorney for the District, the FBI and a congressman with oversight of D.C. affairs. The probes surround former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, who received a $110,000-a-year job at the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance after constantly criticizing incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty during the campaign. He was fired when questions surfaced about his past.

Mr. Gray said Tuesday he has not been directly contacted by the FBI, although it is possible agents may have contacted members of his staff.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said his investigation comes after members of his staff were rebuffed in their efforts to get basic information from Mr. Gray's staff about allegations that cash payoffs were made during Mr. Gray's campaign.

"I don't know who it is on my staff they're having trouble getting answers from," Mr. Gray said at Tuesday's briefing, later adding, "I don't want to send any message other than that we intend to be forthcoming."

Questions also surround Cherita Whiting, a Gray campaign consultant who was appointed as a special assistant in the Department of Parks and Recreation despite failing to disclose a felony conviction for wire fraud on her job application.

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