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Gray Seeks to Jump Start Agenda

Barrington M. Salmon | 6/15/2011, 9:32 p.m.
Vincent C. Gray (D)

In the aftermath of the Sulaimon Brown debacle last week, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is focusing on running the city and moving the city forward, said a senior spokesperson Monday.

Gray, 68, has been dogged in recent months by a series of missteps that have put the public focus on anything but governance. There is frustration in some parts of the administration that the media has pounced on problems without also publicizing the positive aspects in which the administration is engaged.

"The media keep saying the mayor's talking, not doing anything ... [but] folks at the town hall meetings I've attended are more interested in jobs and taking care of their households than what the media has called a scandal," said Doxie McCoy, Gray's senior communications manager.

In the early days of the administration, Gray was pressured to dismiss his chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, after published reports that four children of top city officials were awarded District jobs.

"There is a category called 'Excepted Service' for qualified people who worked on campaigns. This is not the first time a mayor has done this," McCoy said. "It should have been handled better. The law says that children can't be employed in the departments their parents work in. The mayor believes that a child who grew up in government should not be penalized in this way."

"Looking back, we could have paid closer attention to the vetting of candidates for positions," Gray said. "However, let's be clear that the overwhelming majority of my appointees are highly qualified and have extensive backgrounds in their areas of expertise. We have assembled a sterling team to work on behalf of the people of our great city."

So why did they lose their jobs?

McCoy said the entire issue had become a distraction and more importantly, the mayor had not been apprised of the young people's hiring.

When Gray talks about paying closer attention to the vetting of candidates for positions, he was probably referring to Sulaimon Brown. Brown's sometimes outlandish claims of administration misconduct over the past several months has cast a pall and thrown the administration off-course. Brown, 40, appeared Monday, June 6, before the D.C. Council which sought to get solid answers about allegations he leveled against the mayor. After more than four hours of bad theater and verbal jousting, the Council is no closer to ascertaining the veracity of Brown's testimony.

The former mayoral candidate accuses administration officials of paying him off with money orders, cash and the promise of a job for ramping up a smear campaign against former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

However, it's not just the administration that's under fire.

Last week was not a good week to be a council official.

Other council members are fending off the fallout from inappropriate behavior, lapses of judgment and perhaps outright theft.

The District's attorney general filed charges against Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) for allegedly diverting more than $300,000 of taxpayer funds for his personal use -- travel to Las Vegas, Nev., and Pebble Beach, Calif., and the purchase of a $59,000 Audi SUV. Thomas, 50, has denied any wrongdoing but stepped down last week as chairman of the powerful Economic Development Committee after pressure from his colleagues.