Draft Copy of DC Council Report on Mayoral Hiring Abuses

D.C. Council committee faults Gray, aides for hiring problems

By Tim Craig and Mike DeBonis, Tuesday, August 23, 8:54 AM

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration violated local and federal law, showed little regard for government money and damaged the city’s reputation through “nepotism and cronyism,” a D.C. Council panel concludes in a draft report expected to be made public Tuesday.

The special committee did not uncover direct involvement by Gray in his administration’s most controversial personnel decisions, but it sharply criticizes the conduct of several of his most trusted deputies and raises concerns about the mayor’s focus during the early days of his administration.

“Ultimately, Mayor Gray, as chief executive, is responsible for the actions and errors of his campaign, transition and administration,” the report states. “And when those actions and errors were discovered, it is unfortunate that the Gray administration did not act more swiftly to investigate and repudiate the unlawful actions that occurred.”

The 47-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, states that Gray appeared “essentially disconnected” and that he failed to adequately supervise his staff. The report blames three top aides: Judy Banks, the former interim head of the D.C. Department of Human Resources; Gerri Mason Hall, Gray’s former chief of staff; and Lorraine Green, the chairwoman of the mayor’s campaign and the transition.

“These individuals abused their authority and the mayor’s trust,” the report states. “It appears this trio acted with little supervision from Mayor Gray.”

The report added that the “damage created by these errors is not irreparable, but it will take time for the District to heal from them.”

The Post is seeking comment from Gray, Green, Banks and Hall as well as others cited in the report, which follows a six-month investigation by the council into how Gray (D) selected members of his administration and set their salaries.

The probe also explored allegations by former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown that he was promised a city job and paid by Gray advisers, including campaign consultant Howard Brooks, in exchange for attacking then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) last year on the campaign trail.

The report, which was spearheaded by Council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and David A. Catania (I-At-Large), represents the first official assessment of Brown’s claims. Federal prosecutors and a congressional committee are also investigating.

While the report says Brown’s testimony was “undercut by . . . his tendency to exaggerate, seek the limelight, and embellish his story for dramatic effect,” as well as his “erratic behavior,” it concludes that Brown received at least $1,160 in payments from Brooks. The committee also found evidence of a job promise in the “extraordinary actions” that Hall and Green undertook to find Brown a city position. But the committee, which is scheduled to vote Wednesday to finalize the draft report, did not directly link Gray to the payments.

Brown was hired as a special assistant at the Department of Health Care Finance, even though senior administration officials were aware he had a “poor” credit history. In February, after Brown’s hiring — and his record of arrests — came to light, he was fired.

The committee’s report found that Brown’s $110,000 salary was “beyond what could legitimately be deemed reasonable.” Gray had initially suggested that Brown was qualified for the special assistant job, citing a resume showing that Brown had experience in auditing and accounting. But the report said there was no attempt to verify Brown’s resume claims, which in many cases were exaggerated.

The report does not disclose any information about the status of the grand jury investigation underway in connection with Brown’s allegations. But the committee recommends that the U.S. attorney’s office investigate Brown and Banks for their conduct during the council investigation. The report indicates that Banks may have committed perjury in her testimony before the committee and that Brown may have made “false statements” to the council.

The most extensive section of the report — based on 20,000 pages of documents including bank records and 12,000 e-mails — and on 25 hours of public hearings, centers on allegations of nepotism.

The committee found that five adult children of senior Gray advisers were put on the payroll shortly after the mayor’s inauguration in January, including two hires that were “improper and likely illegal.”

Although the District does not have a nepotism policy, the committee noted that the city government is subject to federal nepotism restrictions.

In what the committee calls “the clearest evidence of illegal nepotism,” the administration hired Hall’s son to a $55,000-a-year position in the Department of Parks and Recreation.

According to the committee, Hall e-mailed her son’s resume to Banks at 8:54 a.m. on Jan. 14. Twenty minutes later, according to the report, “Ms. Banks instructed her staff to process Mr. Hall’s paper work for his position at the Department of Parks and Recreation.”

The committee also believes it may have been illegal for the son of Rochelle Webb, who had been named the head of the Department of Employment Services, to be given a job in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

In another hire, the committee also questioned why Peyton Brooks, the son of campaign consultant Howard Brooks, was given a job.

Although it determined that Brooks hire did not violate nepotism laws because Brooks was not a city employee, the committee said the hire “violated several standard personnel procedures.”

“Peyton Brooks stated that he was never interviewed by anyone in the District government before he was hired and never received a job description for his position,” the report states.

Both Hall and Webb have left city government, as have their two sons. Peyton Brooks has also stepped down from his position.

The report also faults the Gray administration for ignoring limits on executive pay and bonuses. Despite a District law capping executive branch salaries, Gray advisers approved numerous salaries that exceeded the cap. The report called it “a cavalier attitude . . .. during a period of fiscal constraint” that “caused residents to lose confidence in their government and public officials.”

But the council committee’s concern about spending on salaries also stretched back to Fenty.

In “one of his final acts as mayor,” Fenty approved a $65,750 bonus for Allen Y. Lew, then the director of the Office of Public Education Facilities and Modernization. Lew was earning $275,000 a year. According to the council report, Fenty approved the payout even though the council had banned performance bonuses that year due to budget constraints.

Gray, who named Lew city administrator weeks before the bonus was issued, allowed the payment to proceed in early February.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Final Draft Council Report on Gray Hiring Practices 8.23.11.pdf

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