It was D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's first news conference at the Wilson Building since his victory over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in last week's Democratic primary, but one never would have guessed it from the seemingly routine nature of Monday's proceedings. It was the usual hour-long recitation, previewing the council's legislative agenda when it reconvenes Tuesday.
The only hint that something had changed was the number of reporters, TV cameras and council members in attendance. And then, as soon as the official news conference concluded, Gray was mobbed by reporters who all wanted to talk about one thing: Would Gray consider keeping Michelle Rhee in light of her characterization of the election results as "devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C."?
"It's contingent on what the discussion is," said Gray, stressing that "it is important for us not to talk through other people."
Gray said that he and Rhee have traded phone messages in the days since the election and plan to talk this week.
Even though the election is officially over, the lingering tensions between the council and the Fenty administration persist. The council Tuesday will try to override two bills the mayor rejected during the recess period in a "pocket veto." The first would make it a crime to pay someone to vote or to register to vote. Allegations of vote-buying dogged the campaigns of Fenty and Gray in the waning days of the election, something both camps denied.
The second bill would allow trustees of the University of the District of Columbia to operate with reduced membership, because of the high number of vacancies on the panel. For months, the mayor and the council have been unable to agree on Fenty's appointments, leaving 10 openings on the 15-member board. Gray said he considers the nominees put forward by the mayor "unqualified," in part because they would not bring "influence or affluence" to the position.
During the three months before Fenty leaves office in January, Gray said that the council would only sign off on mayoral appointments critical to "moving the government forward."
When asked to identify such areas, Gray replied, "I haven't identified anything," adding, "That doesn't mean there won't be something."
Separately, the council will take up legislation intended to block a settlement payment to one of the firms at the center of an ongoing council investigation into parks and recreation renovation contracts. The firm, Banneker Ventures, is owned by Omar Karim, a friend and fraternity brother of Fenty's.
Karim is scheduled to be deposed Tuesday after a judge on Friday compelled his testimony. The attorney conducting the probe, Robert P. Trout, is scheduled to interview other subjects -- including Fenty administration officials Valerie Santos and Neil Albert -- this month and next. Trout anticipates finishing his work before the end of the council session Dec. 31.
"We want the facts, we want the information," said council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), whose committee is overseeing Trout's work.