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D.C. officials first announced Mr. Tulou’s firing on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Since then, city officials have remained silent.

Last week, a spokeswoman for D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chairwoman of the D.C. Council on the Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation, said the lawmaker had nothing to say on the situation as new details surfaced about the contents of DDOE communications to EPA.

Still, Mr. Lew addressed DDOE employees in a gathering shortly after Mr. Tulou’s firing, providing somewhat more information, according to an audio recording of his talk obtained by The Times. Mr. Lew joked about how a colleague had once said the city administrator went to the “Atilla the Hun” school of management, a line that didn’t get much reaction from the audience.

Mr. Lew also told the DDOE staff they were lucky his chief of staff, Mr. Graves, wasn’t in charge. Otherwise, there would have been “a lot more collateral damage,” Mr. Lew said. It’s a remark that, according to Mr. Tulou’s complaint, was intended to “ensure that others within DDOE would not provide comments to the EPA.”

Mr. Lew’s office declined last week to discuss the meeting.

One employee at the meeting asked about communicating with EPA in light of media accounts surrounding Mr. Tulou’s firing, but was interrupted by Mr. Lew.

“You ever heard the line ‘Timing in life is everything,’ you ever heard of that line?” Mr. Lew asked.

“Sure,” the employee said.

“This is not about not communicating,” Mr. Lew said. “We’re not talking about censoring. It’s the timing of some of those communications.”

But some employees weren’t convinced. One who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity, citing fears about job security, said the remarks had a “devastating impact on staff morale.”