- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has pledged to unfailingly fight for D.C. voting rights and statehood, and has encouraged residents to do the same in both his inaugural speech and more recent State of the District address.But the mayor was accused of “wimping out” on promoting the voting rights cause after his meeting with White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten on Thursday.Mr. Fenty met with Mr. Bolten for 45 minutes at the White House to discuss the Bush administration’s opposition to a current bill before the House that would grant the District a seat in that chamber.Afterward, he traveled a few blocks over to the John A. Wilson Building to brief the press on how the meeting went. WTOP-103.5 FM’s political analyst, Mark Plotkin — an ardent voting rights supporter known to castigate city leaders for not doing enough to promote the cause — asked the mayor why he didn’t hold his briefing outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, which he said would have provided a more poignant platform than the briefing room at city hall.”Haven’t you really squandered a wonderful opportunity to have this press conference after this meeting using the White House as a backdrop?” Mr. Plotkin asked the mayor once the briefing began.He also noted that the briefing was not being broadcast by the city’s cable channel, which would have allowed residents at home to know how the White House meeting went before seeing reports on the evening news or in the morning paper.Mr. Fenty said the channel “certainly could’ve been here,” but his response on where he staged the briefing stayed fairly simple — although he conceded to Mr. Plotkin that he made “an excellent point.”“Collectively in our administration we decided that a matter dealing with District issues should be handled in the District building,” Mr. Fenty said. “And that’s why we’re here.”• Case dismissedFormer Mayor Anthony A. Williams won’t have to defend himself against a defamation lawsuit filed by a former top staffer in the fallout of a fundraising scandal, an appeals court has ruled.Marc Jones, Mr. Williams’ former deputy chief of staff, accused the former mayor of disparaging Mr. Jones to the press during a fundraising scandal in 2001.The lawsuit claimed that Mr. Williams knew about improper fundraising, but defamed Mr. Jones in comments to the news media after firing the staffer.Last week, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and ordered the case dismissed, saying the law gives the former mayor immunity from the lawsuit.”The question is not whether fundraising is a proper mayoral function, but whether accounting to the press and the public for the manner in which his staff conducted itself is an activity qualifying for absolute immunity,” the panel ruled.• New facesMr. Fenty last week nominated four more permanent picks to head city departments after losing one of his directors the week before.The mayor on Tuesday named Leila Edmonds, currently a vice president in the community development department at HSBC Bank USA, to be director of the Department of Housing and Community Development.He chose Vivek Kundra — Virginia’s assistant secretary of commerce and trade — to serve as the city’s new chief technology officer and named Summer Spencer, executive director of the Center for Alexandria’s Children, to head the Department of Employment Services.A day later, Mr. Fenty nominated Soohyun “Julie” Koo, the current interim director of the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, to head the department permanently.The nominations must be approved by the D.C. Council and follow the resignation two weeks ago of Merrit Drucker, director of the Office of Community Relations.Mr. Drucker also served as coordinator of the Office of the Clean City during the administration of Mr. Fenty’s predecessor, former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and was Mr. Williams’ Ward 4 constituent-services coordinator.Mr. Fenty’s office declined to say why Mr. Drucker relinquished his post, saying they could not comment on personnel matters. A spokeswoman for Mr. Fenty said Mr. Drucker “simply resigned.”• Gary Emerling and Jim McElhatton contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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