- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Political activists filed paperwork on Wednesday to begin a recall effort against D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, asserting that well-publicized missteps in the early months of each official’s term amount to “breaches of office through unethical behavior.”

Frederick Butler, who signaled his intent to recall Mr. Gray during the height of investigations into the mayor’s hiring practices last summer, filed the notices of intent to recall at the city’s Board of Elections and Ethics.

The statements attached to both notices are identical except for the names and titles of the officials. Mr. Butler does not lay out specific accusations, but says both men violated an oath that is defined as “a solemn appeal to God.”

“This oath is more than a mere formality,” the notices say. “It provides the foundation for leadership decisions that all individuals take before assuming and fulfilling the duties of any elected office.”

Mr. Butler had vowed to pursue a recall effort against former council member Harry Thomas Jr. in Ward 5 as well, but it became a moot point when Mr. Thomas resigned and pleaded guilty on Friday to stealing $350,000 in D.C. funds and failing to file accurate federal tax returns.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Butler said he has a database of about 200 volunteers and captains assigned to all eight of the city’s wards.

“As soon as I get the petitions, it’s all systems go,” he said.

No citywide or ward-wide recall effort has ever come close to making the ballot in the District, according to the elections board.

Organizers must collect signatures from 10 percent of the D.C. electorate, which amounts to more than 45,000 signatures. They must obtain signatures from 10 percent of the voters in five of the city’s eight wards to ensure the recall sentiment is distributed across the District.

Filings against the city’s top two officials arrive while Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown try to move on with the city’s business despite a pair of federal investigations into their own dealings on the campaign trail in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

Mr. Gray said he has cooperated with investigators looking into whether the mayor or his associates paid a minor mayoral candidate to bash incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. The council and a congressional oversight committee also investigated allegations of nepotism in the hiring of Mr. Gray’s political appointees.

In Mr. Brown’s case, the elections board referred serious financial irregularities discovered in reports from his 2008 re-election committee to federal prosecutors.

A recent poll by Clarus Research Group fueled talk of recall efforts, with Mr. Brown chalking up an approval rating of 23 percent and a disapproval rate of 57 percent. Mr. Gray registered 34 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval.

Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown will have 10 days to respond to the claims in the notice. For his part, the mayor fiercely defended his record during a biweekly press conference Wednesday at the Anne Beers Elementary School in Ward 7.

“These are people who were supporters of the previous mayor,” Mr. Gray said of Mr. Butler and his associates. “I feel we have done an excellent job with many of the issues in the District of Columbia.”

Mr. Butler rejected claims that he is motivated by pro-Fenty revenge, asserting “that comment just further highlights how out of step Vince Gray is with the residents of D.C.”

Mr. Gray cited ongoing efforts to reform city schools and stem double-digit unemployment in the District, especially east of the Anacostia River. He said an upcoming audit on the city’s finances will show the city is in terrific fiscal shape.

“The barometers that people swear by all are going in the right direction,” Mr. Gray said. “If this gentleman — who said that I haven’t done the job — would like to debate whether the job has been done, we’ll be happy to speak to that.”

Both Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown are Democrats, yet the D.C. Republican Committee has said it will only play a supporting role in any recall efforts.

Organizers have 180 days to fill recall petitions before elections officials verify signatures as registered voters and match a random sample of signatures against those in their records.

If elections officials certify the petition, a recall election “for” or “against” removal will be scheduled within 114 days. A successful recall will prompt the board to schedule a special election for the vacancy within 114 days.

Successful recalls could trigger special elections by November.

Meanwhile, the elections board is scheduled to declare a vacancy in the Ward 5 council seat on Tuesday, setting up a special election on May 15.



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