Monday, January 22, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has proposed more than 200 goals to accomplish in his administration’s first 100 days and beyond, but one task his administration recently tried to tackle may prove particularly fruitless: reining in community activist Dorothy Brizill.

Mrs. Brizill, executive director of watchdog group D.C. Watch, has drawn the annoyance — if not the all-out ire — of former mayors with her persistent questions at press conferences and sometimes combative nature.

But an incident at Mr. Fenty’s Jan. 6 inaugural ball between Mrs. Brizill and Mr. Fenty’s director of communications, Carrie Brooks, apparently has drawn much more.

In a letter to Mrs. Brizill dated Jan. 10, Mr. Fenty’s general counsel, Peter J. Nickles, said members of the Fenty administration are expected to treat the press with “respect and candor.”

“It has come to my attention that you have not reciprocated this sense of respect in your dealings with members of our Administration and in particular with members of our communications staff,” Mr. Nickles wrote to Mrs. Brizill. “I respectfully request that you observe the same rules of respect and candor that we observe here.”

Mrs. Brizill, whose accomplishments include exposing fraud in signature gathering for then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ 2002 re-election campaign, fired a letter back asking Mr. Nickles, “Are you referring to the occasion at the inaugural ball when the director of communications refused to give me my press credentials to enter, and threatened to have me put out of the building if ‘I didn’t behave’?”

The letter also accuses Mr. Fenty’s staff of repeatedly failing to provide her with requested information.

“If you intend to make any further attempts to intimidate me, please don’t hesitate to write, call, or e-mail,” Mrs. Brizill wrote. “I look forward to hearing from you.”

• Familiar face

Another familiar face in the former mayor’s administration could soon play an important role during the new mayor’s term.

Vince Morris, the spokesman for former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, has been nominated by new Mayor Adrian M. Fenty for a spot on the city’s Sports and Entertainment Commission.

Mr. Morris, a reporter for The Washington Times and the New York Post before joining the Williams administration, also was recently named director of communications for Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

Mr. Morris was nominated by Mr. Williams for the commission position last year, but the former mayor withdrew that selection and a host of other nominees in deference to Mr. Fenty.

Mr. Fenty said last week that he plans to nominate about 30 of Mr. Williams’ roughly 40 proposed picks for boards and commissions.

Nominees are subject to approval by the D.C. Council.

• Abramoff fallout

The Interior Department’s former No. 2 official has resigned from a federal commission for Jamestown’s 400th anniversary amid reports that he is a target of a probe involving imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“As you have no doubt seen, recently there have [been] published reports concerning investigations of actions involving me,” J. Steven Griles wrote in a letter to Frank Atkinson, chairman of the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission.

“Without commenting on those reports, I have come to the conclusion that it would be better for the commission that I withdraw my membership,” Mr. Griles wrote in the letter, dated Jan. 10 and provided to reporters by the commission Tuesday.

Mr. Griles, an energy lobbyist, works at a D.C. firm.

Commission spokesman William Allcott said the commission’s office in Williamsburg received the letter Jan. 13.

The commission works with the state agency planning events for the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement. Its responsibilities include a series of conferences on the future of democracy.

Mr. Griles, former deputy interior secretary during President Bush’s first term, was notified by letter and told of possible charges — including lying to Congress — at a meeting this month with Justice Department prosecutors, the Associated Press reported, citing people familiar with the probe who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The charges involve questions about whether Mr. Griles falsely testified in 2005 before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about Abramoff’s attempts to hire Mr. Griles away from Interior.

Mr. Griles told the committee that Abramoff had no special access to him. Mr. Griles’ attorney, Barry Hartman, has said that committee’s report in September found no evidence that Mr. Griles acted improperly.

Abramoff is serving about six years in prison for a fraudulent Florida casino business deal and awaits sentencing in a D.C. bribery scandal. The Abramoff investigation ensnared former Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, this fall when the congressman acknowledged accepting gifts in exchange for government action.

Several Capitol Hill staffers and a former Bush administration official also have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in the case.

The Senate committee’s investigation and e-mails detailed numerous contacts with Abramoff and Italia Federici, who was a go-between for Abramoff. Miss Federici headed the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, and federal investigators have been looking at donations the group received from Abramoff’s Indian tribal clients and from energy and mining companies, including some that were Mr. Griles’ ex-clients.

• Nominations

A day before he was sworn in as Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley nominated two state employees to his Cabinet.

Mr. O’Malley said he would recommend Richard Hall to be planning secretary and John Griffin to lead the Department of Natural Resources.

Mr. Hall works in the planning department, where he leads the department’s largest division of planners.

Mr. Griffin worked at DNR for 14 years, serving under three governors, and was appointed secretary by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, in 1994. Five years later, Mr. Glendening fired Mr. Griffin without a public explanation. Mr. Griffin now works for a private planning and engineering firm.

The state Senate must confirm the appointments. Last week’s announcement brings the total Cabinet secretaries nominated by Mr. O’Malley to seven.

• Party on

New Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley gave the crowd at his inaugural ball reason to consider whether he might have chosen the wrong career, strapping on a green guitar for a raucous reunion of his Celtic rock band, O’Malley’s March.

In a carefully scripted exchange after Mr. O’Malley’s brief remarks to the crowd at the Baltimore Convention Center on Wednesday night, former Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro III called the governor to the stage to join what he mistakenly referred to as “O’Malley’s Marching Band.”

The band went on indefinite hiatus in 2005 so Mr. O’Malley could focus on his political career, and the governor feigned concern about performing again.

“Mr. Mayor, I wouldn’t want to hurt my gravitas,” he said to Mr. D’Alesandro. After a pause, he said, “Give me two seconds, I’ll be right over there.”

A few minutes later, Mr. O’Malley said: “I really want to thank my guys in the band. It’s really hard for us to give up the occasional night [of performing]. But we were willing to do it because, by golly, our state needed us.”

O’Malley’s March played three songs, no doubt chosen for their symbolic impact. First, they covered Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin.” Next was “The Broad Majestic Shadow,” which Mr. O’Malley dedicated to several people, including his late father.

O’Malley’s March concluded with a surprising choice, a cover of Green Day’s catchy but sullen breakup song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which the band reworked into a rousing party anthem.

Other groups — including the Saw Doctors and the neo-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — performed, but none of them included a partying politician.

• Gary Emerling contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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