- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There is “clear evidence” that Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration engaged in cronyism, paid excessive salaries above legal caps and illegally hired the children of senior officials, according to a council committee’s draft report.

The report released Tuesday also found “strong evidence” that Howard Brooks, a campaign consultant during Mr. Gray’s race last year against incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, provided funds to minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown to stay in the race attack Mr. Fenty.

Mr. Brown leveled the dramatic accusations after he was hired, then fired, from a $110,000-a-year job in the Department of Healthcare Finance.

Mr. Gray has said he promised Mr. Brown an interview, but did not pay him or promise him an actual position.
“Although this damage is not irreparable, it will take time for the residents of the District to regain their trust in their government,” the report said.

While the overall findings of the report are highly critical of Mr. Gray’s team, the most damning claims fall short of the mayor.

Rather, the committee said most of the blame for personnel errors “falls squarely” with the trio tasked to hire political appointees and place them in agencies: Judy Banks, the interim director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources; Gerri Mason Hall, who served as Mr. Gray’s chief of staff until she was fired in March; and Lorraine Green, a longtime confidante of the mayor who led the campaign and transition.

Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, led efforts to investigate the mayor’s personnel practices after mounting evidence of nepotism and the media scrutiny given to allegations by Mr. Brown.

As former chairman of the committee that oversees government operations, she called 19 witnesses to provide more than 25 hours of testimony on various dates in March through June.

Her office’s release of the draft report comes ahead of a public hearing on the findings on Wednesday.
It also coincides with Mr. Gray’s celebration of D.C. Day at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, which his administration has used to tout full democracy for D.C. residents.

The mayor had gained kudos for his efforts on D.C autonomy — he was even arrested during a demonstration — yet the committee report highlights the early stumbles of his administration.

“Ultimately … it is Mayor Gray who, as chief executive, bears responsibility for the actions and errors of his senior staff, both in the District government and in his campaign,” the report said.

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