D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) Thursday called on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty to fire Attorney General Peter Nickles, arguing Nickles has become "the mayor's political hatchet man" instead of the city's top lawyer.
Gray, who is challenging Fenty in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, accused Nickles of "protecting the mayor's cronies" and working as an "enabler of the mayor's cronyism."
"His politicization of the office is inappropriate at best, and illegal at worst," Gray said. "And by protecting the mayor's cronies, he has put the interest of the mayor squarely ahead of the interest of his actual client."
Gray's call for Nickles ouster represent one of his most direct criticisms to date of the Fenty administration and highlights Nickles' expanding role in the mayor's race. Two weeks ago, Nickles publically attacked Gray's record as director of Human Services in the early 1990s under former Mayor Sharon Pratt.
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported Nickles had crafted a $550,000 settlement with Banneker Ventures, the firm whose city contract to oversee the construction of renovated and new parks and recreation centers was terminated last year in the wake of a council probe into how they were awarded. Banneker is owned by one of Fenty's friends and fraternity brothers.
Several council members are outraged that Nickles settled the case before the conclusion of a council probe into the matter.
"He has betrayed the public trust too many times," said Gray, who also accused Nickles of improperly asserting himself into politics by raising questions about the chairman's record in recent media interviews.
A Fenty spokesman was not immediately able to comment. In an interview, Nickles said he's "sorry to see that Gray has got so caught up in the political campaign that he issues these kind of political statements."
"I think his campaign is lagging and he is trying to find a flash point and I guess he figures I am as good of target as any," Nickles said. "He should have picked on someone else because I am not going to stand by and have these outrageous assertions made."
Nickles said the Banneker settlement was "good for the city" because it allows numerous stalled construction projects to now move forward. Nickles also strongly denied Gray's allegations of cronyism. "I did not pass the settlement by the mayor and I did not get the approval of the mayor," Nickles said. "This was purely a legal matter that was handled by experts in the law."
Nickles added," My commitment has been and will remain to the citizens of the city...It's a shame that Vince Gray has stooped to this level because of politics."