- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2010

A day after D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray announced his candidacy for mayor, a city official rejected his claim that he has filed, under threat of costly fines, an application for a 6-foot-high fence he built in 2008 without a permit.

“This is not true,” wrote Lamont Regester, chief inspector for the D.C. Department of Transportation, in a reply to a letter from Mr. Gray’s lawyer on Monday that claimed the newly announced mayoral candidate had filed a permit application March 11. “This agency has never received a proper submission.”

Since March 4, the department has been threatening to fine Mr. Gray, challenger to incumbent Adrian M. Fenty, $300 for every day he fails to follow the law. So far, it has not imposed any fines.

Mr. Gray has long criticized Mr. Fenty for rewarding his friends with lucrative city contracts, hoarding baseball tickets and exploiting the trappings of office.

But last year, following a series of articles by The Washington Times, Mr. Gray became the subject of an investigation by the Office of Campaign Finance for allowing a mega-developer, close personal friend, campaign donor and president of a company on whose projects Mr. Gray has voted to oversee unauthorized repairs at his $667,000 home in the Hillcrest section of Southeast Washington.

Mr. Gray at first denied that the friend, W. Christopher Smith Jr., had had anything to do with the repairs. He then confirmed it and produced receipts showing that Mr. Smith’s company, which was not a licensed home-improvement contractor at the time, was planning a major home renovation for Mr. Gray that never materialized.

The Times then reported that Mr. Gray had had a different contractor build a retaining wall and a 6-foot-high, 357-foot-long aluminum fence around his large corner lot in 2008, also without proper permits.

At least two D.C. agencies await resolution of the matter: the Departments of Transportation and Consumer Regulatory Affairs, which requires a hearing before the Public Space Committee for fences more than 42 inches high. Mr. Gray’s fence measures 72 inches high, according to the unlicensed, out-of-state company that installed it.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said recently that he is “mystified” that Mr. Gray has not managed to resolve the matter. Mr. Gray, who originally hired D.C. power lawyer Frederick D. Cooke Jr., now is represented by another lawyer, former D.C. Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti.

According to the city Department of Transportation, Mr. Spagnoletti’s firm misfiled Mr. Gray’s permit application to the wrong agency.

“DDOT can assume no responsibility for this mistake,” Mr. Regester wrote Wednesday to Mr. Gray’s lawyers, who declined to comment.

Doxie McCoy, communications director for Mr. Gray, said the office had “nothing to say” on Mr. Gray’s relationship with Mr. Smith or the multiple unauthorized improvements to his property.

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