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A ‘broken’ system

The hospital contract is merely the latest controversy to emerge from a system that Mr. Gray’s spokesman Pedro Ribeiro this week called “broken.” But Mr. Gray’s name has surfaced more than once in connection with contracts within that system.

Mr. Gray has been vocal about restoring United Medical Center for sale to a private entity. He appointed new board members — including developer W. Christopher Smith, his lifelong friend — to replace those selected by his predecessor, former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Last week, after Mr. Orange opposed the hospital contract award, he said he received a late-night text message from a Gray administration official that he interpreted as coercive. The mayor's office has denied any attempt to influence the award.

In 2010, The Times reported on the D.C. Lottery contract approval process overseen by Mr. Gray, then the council chairman, prompting then-Attorney General Peter J. Nickles to call for an investigation by the D.C. inspector general.

The lottery contract saga led U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. to convene a grand jury.

Sources familiar with the council and the hospital contract say council members want to avoid scrutinizing the recent award because of the lottery contract and others that have become controversial.

“The problem is, the council is still responsible for approving these contracts,” said one veteran of D.C. government and private enterprise, skeptical of how Huron won the hospital contract. “You would think that with the lottery fiasco they’d be more forthcoming. I’d want to know if the [hospital] contract was awarded correctly before I voted it up or down.”

Perhaps the most perplexing reaction has come from Ms. Alexander. On Jan. 29, she said she was not familiar with the award but said it sounded “pricey.” The next day, she said she would join Mr. Orange in opposing it. By Jan. 31, after also reportedly being contacted by the mayor's office, she withdrew her disapproval of the award.

“I’m not instructed by anyone on what to do,” she said this week.