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DISTRICT

Cheh gets subpoena authority for probe

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh will have subpoena power as she investigates the personnel practices of Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

During a meeting of the council’s Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, Mrs. Cheh and council members Tommy Wells and David A. Catania voted to grant the committee the authority to compel witness testimony.

Mrs. Cheh, the chairman of the committee, also said she expected to schedule an additional day of testimony in the hearing, which is scheduled for March 28. The additional day would be to accommodate witnesses’ schedules.

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

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.

Shorter bloom seen for cherry blossoms

The National Park Service is scaling back its prediction for the peak bloom period for Washington’s famous cherry blossoms.

The Park Service said Wednesday that the peak blooming period will likely be March 29 through April 1. A horticulturist had earlier predicted the peak blooming time would last through April 3.

Buds on the cherry trees already are in the “puffy white” stage, which means they are about four to six days away from peak bloom.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival begins Saturday and runs through April 10. Festival organizers will hold a “Stand With Japan” unity walk around the Tidal Basin on Thursday night and will raise money for American Red Cross relief efforts.

AG candidate pledges independence from Gray

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s nominee to be the city’s attorney general on Wednesday told a D.C. Council committee considering his confirmation that his office would remain independent from the mayor.

“We will tell them what we sincerely believe from a nonpolitical perspective,” interim Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said.

The comments come after Fenty administration Attorney General Peter J. Nickles was widely criticized for being politically allied with his boss.

Mr. Nathan told the committee that, as evidence of his independence, he had moved his staff out of city hall.

Asked why he had not embarked on his own investigation of Mr. Gray, whose personnel practices are the subject of federal and state probes, Mr. Nathan said he thought the effort would duplicate the work of other agencies and officials.

A senior partner who ran the white-collar-crime department at Arnold & Porter from 1994 to 2007, Mr. Nathan was named to the post by Mr. Gray in December. He comes from Capitol Hill, where, since leaving private practice, he served as general counsel to the U.S. House. He also worked in the Justice Department.

MARYLAND

Man charged in 2 Olney slayings

ROCKVILLE | Montgomery County police have warrants charging an Olney man with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths this month of two men in that town.
Officers said Wednesday that 35-year-old Rohan Goodlett had been arrested Monday and is being held at the Correctional Facility in Clarksburg on drug charges. Police say his car was stopped because it matched the description of a vehicle seen near one of the shootings.

Mr. Goodlett has been accused killing 81-year-old Nazir Ahmed on March 18 on Friday and 41-year-old Punyasara Gedara on Monday, March 21. Police say Mr. Goodlett lived in the same block as Ahmed. Officers also say ballistic evidence confirm that the same gun was used to kill both victims.
Police have not determined a motive.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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