- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s campaign consultant turned political appointee Cherita F. Whiting was earning $98,000 per year, not the $65,000 annually the Gray administration previously reported to the D.C. Council, according to D.C. government employee listings obtained by The Washington Times.

A Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) employee listing submitted to the council in advance of an April budget hearing - a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by The Times - shows that Ms. Whiting’s $98,000-a-year salary came with fringe benefits, for a total compensation package of $123,676. The Ward 4 activist and fierce critic of defeated incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty had been hired as a special assistant to DPR Chief of Staff John Stokes.

But two months earlier in February, DPR had submitted a “Current Employees” list to the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation as part of a routine oversight hearing and that list showed that Ms. Whiting was being paid $65,000 per year, which is the salary she reported to The Times that same month. The District’s website also shows her salary as being $65,000 as of March 25.

“I don’t know anything about this,” said Mr. Stokes. “I’m not familiar with two different documents.”

Erica McKinley, general counsel for the Department of Human Resources, declined this week to confirm Ms. Whiting’s salary.

Linda Wharton-Boyd, the mayor’s director of communications, responded via text message at 9:43 p.m. Wednesday to questions from The Times, saying the “information is not accurate.” She said perhaps the job was “slated” at $98,000 annually but that “Ms. Whiting’s salary was only $65,000.”

She offered no explanation for the document obtained by The Times.

Ms. Whiting’s hiring is among a number of political appointments that raised questions soon after Mr. Gray took office, such as whether his administration engaged in nepotism or skirted accepted hiring practices for people who supported his candidacy. She was among his most vocal supporters, bashing Mr. Fenty at every turn and rallying support for Mr. Gray, at one point making an endorsement that appeared in The Washington Post.

In November, the Gray campaign paid her $2,000 as a “campaign consultant,” according to city records.

Ms. Whiting resigned from her job at DPR in April, six weeks after she told The Times she failed to disclose a 2001 felony conviction to her government employers, despite a city requirement that job applicants report felony convictions from the past 10 years. A previous private sector employer also told The Times that they too were unaware of her prior conviction.

“Those who know, know, and those who didn’t, I felt didn’t need to,” Ms. Whiting told The Times, in an interview in her basement office at DPR in February.

After The Times reported on Ms. Whiting’s undisclosed past, the Gray administration produced for a council committee a copy of a job application that purports to contradict Ms. Whiting’s admission to The Times about her undisclosed criminal conviction. Yet the Gray administration has refused to release redacted copies of all of Ms. Whiting’s job applications, including the one she filled out last year, before she was hired by D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson.

An email from a Gray supporter and interviews with both the supporter and Mr. Mendelson showed that Mr. Gray was informed of Ms. Whiting’s undisclosed criminal conviction in July.

Ms. Whiting was convicted in July 2001 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia of wire fraud, according to federal court records. She was released from federal prison in April 2003, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. In the 1990s, Ms. Whiting was charged multiple times with fraud, forgery, passing bad checks and theft, according to Maryland court records. In 1994, she pleaded guilty to theft and was placed on home detention, the records state.

After completing her sentence in 2003, she became active in local politics and civic affairs, serving on numerous boards and commissions. She is a former Ward 4 advisory neighborhood commissioner.

Ms. Whiting has been subpoenaed to testify at a hearing on Friday before the Government Operations Committee chaired by Ward 3 Democrat Mary M. Cheh, who is investigating the Gray administration’s hiring practices. At issue could be the conflicting accounts regarding Ms. Whiting’s salary and job applications, and the Gray administration’s process in hiring her.

However, Sulaimon Brown, the failed mayoral candidate who sparked the hearings with allegations that he received bag money and was promised a job in the Gray administration for bashing Mr. Fenty, has publicly stated he will not comply with a similar subpoena. It is unclear whether Ms. Whiting intends to appear at the hearing.

Calls to A. Scott Bolden, Ms. Whiting’s attorney, were not returned.

• Jeffrey Anderson can be reached at jmanderson@washingtontimes.com.

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