City State: D.C. Council begins hearing on Gray hirings

A hearing into the personnel practices of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray started this morning with council member Mary M. Cheh’s announcement that a second hearing will be tentatively scheduled for April 7.

That hearing will include a list of some of the most anticipated witnesses: Lorraine Green, Gerri Mason Hall, Howard Brooks, Rochelle Webb and, most notably, Sulaimon Brown.

Today’s hearing is scheduled to include testimony from D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, Gray campaign director Reuben Charles, Gray-supporter-turned-city-job-recipient Talib Karim, Department of Healthcare Finance Director Wayne Turnage, Department of Health Director Mohammad Ahkter, and Department of Human Resources Director Judy Banks.

Talib Karim, a Gray appointee who resigned from Healthcare Finance when questions surfaced about his domestic life, said he was instructed by Hall, the mayor’s chief of staff, to find a place for Mr. Brown in the agency that matched his qualifications.

“I would assume he was interviewed,” he said, although he did not know the full extent of the process as it related to Brown.

Outside the hearing, Council member David Catania said he was frustrated with indirect answers he has received from witnesses so far. He said putting the “appetizer” witnesses before the key people slated for April 7 could create an unfair impression before the mayor’s key people get the chance to clear the air.

Answers, he said, are all he wants.

“I’m not getting them now, and that’s the concern I’m having,” Mr. Catania said.

Mr. Karim said he was “surprised as anyone” to hear of Mr. Brown’s allegations.

“The media reports would have us believe it was there investigatory reporting that led to Mr. Brown’s termination … that’s absolutely false,” he said.

Rather, Mr. Brown’s firing was motivated by poor performance and conduct unbecoming of a mayoral employee and allegations he harassed a woman in the agency, Mr. Karim testified.

He said he was qualified for his own position, and that his own background has been exaggerated in tabloid-like reports.

He said Hall, Gray’s former chief of staff, interviewed him and offered him the job in late December.

Reuben Charles, a venture capitalist who worked on Mr. Gray’s campaign and transition team, said he never promised anyone a job. Instead, he told him to wait until the mayor took office, “which was his dictate,” or apply through the normal process on a website designated for that purpose.

He said the transition team raised private funds for Mr. Gray’s inaugural gala, looked at the costs of transition and operations and what he could “loosely describe” as human resource functions.

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