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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 03/14/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: March 14, 2011

TODAY IS MARCH 14, 2011 — DAY 68 OF THE GRAY ADMINISTRATION

It appeared deep inside the paper, but if you missed it, make sure to read Sunday’s Post op-ed from former Health Care Finance Director Julie Hudman explaining why Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s decision to put political appointments into that agency is a very, very bad idea: “]H]is recent actions including questionable hires show a disturbing disregard for an agency that spends over $2.3 billion a year to ensure access and delivery of health care for 225,000 D.C. residents — a third of the city,” the now-departed Adrian M. Fenty appointee writes. “During the transition after the November election, many of us were concerned that we would receive conflicting directions from our boss and from the incoming leadership. The reality was worse: Though I reached out, not once did the Gray transition team contact me. I left District government on Dec. 31 without having spoken to anyone in the incoming administration and deeply concerned about the fate of the agency and, more important, the residents it serves. As feared, after the inauguration the Gray administration started filling the many vacant senior positions with people who lack the technical knowledge or experience needed at a critical juncture of implementing reforms for this agency.” About one of those questionable Health Care Finance hires: WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson gets a hold of the internal Gray vetting report showing that ex-mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, whom Gray sent to the agency at $110,000 a year, was tried for attempted murder in 1988 — and acquitted — and was also charged, but not indicted, in an 2008 assault in New Jersey.

AFTER THE JUMP — OCF filings show that Kwame Brown’s 2008 campaign filings could be $250K out of whack -- DOES director’s son resigns from FEMS job over nepotism allegations -- can the BOEE be fair to a Republican? -- Jack Evans aims to tax food trucks

*** MAIN COURSE ***

WAVING THE GREEN FLAG — Writes Hudman: “Fenty’s instructions were to turn around the agency while protecting its beneficiaries. To implement this vision, we made tough decisions — most of which were related to personnel. We conducted a major realignment and brought in new staff, many of whom had never before worked in District government but who were drawn to the opportunity to make a ground-level difference in their own backyard. Our success stemmed from building a team of the best and brightest — no ‘have to’ hires, no political payoffs and no preference for certain populations, special interests or other groups. ... D.C. Council member Marion Barry said recently, ‘To the victor go the spoils.’ He is right. And from my experience in the Fenty administration, those spoils were both the mandate and the independence to transform our city agencies into high-performing, responsive agencies. I hope Mayor Gray realizes soon that this should be his mandate, too.”

MORE SULAIMON — Brown did not make his promised appearance on WTOP’s Politics Program on Friday. Instead, Jack Evans and Dorothy Brizill filled in on Mark Plotkin’s show. Said Dorothy: “I was told by reliable people that children and spouses were hired, and Mr. Gray was aware of it.” Evans warned, as he is wont to do, of what Congress will think: “Congress is all powerful when it comes to the District, and they could look at us and become very concerned here.” Former Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, newly retained as attorney to campaign consultant and alleged bag man Howard Brooks, went on WTTG-TV Friday to defend his client: “The allegations are unsubstantiated and they’re false. ... There’s really no evidence. It’s more the allegations Mr. Brown is making. People can judge when they see him speak on television what they think about his demeanor and the like.” Gray’s personal lawyer, Bob Bennett, speaks to Legal Times: “Based on my inquiries to date, the allegations against the mayor are outrageous and baseless. ... We expect when the investigation is completed, he will be completely exonerated.” He also told Plotkin the allegations are “nonsense.” In the Washington Times, Jeffrey Anderson and Joseph Weber rehash events of recent weeks, writing that Gray is “reeling” under the various allegations. “The cascading controversies and presence of private lawyers and investigators at such an early stage of a new mayor’s term are virtually unprecedented in the District and come amid problems for key Gray allies who helped get him elected.”

OPINIONS GALORE — (1) Colby King writes on Gray’s “bad start” in his Saturday Post column: “Those 28,000 citywide voters who wrote in another candidate’s name in last November’s mayoral election may be feeling pretty vindicated ‘round about now. The newly minted Gray administration has stumbled badly coming out of the chute. Gray called them ‘missteps.’ ‘Pratfalls’ is a better word. ... Brown is a loose cannon who demagogued his way through the mayoral campaign. (Having moderated a mayoral debate that included Fenty, Gray and Brown, and having attended debates where Brown was present, I know whence I speak.) But unlike the White House gate-crashers, Brown was invited into the Gray administration. ... And what of Gray? Nearly three months into his first year, the mayor has yet to gain his balance. Instead of charting a course for the city through the tough times ahead, Gray finds himself mired in confusion of his administration’s own making.” And some news: Gray tells Colby that “all of the children of staffers, except Lorraine Green’s daughter, were hired without his approval. All, he said, are now off the payroll.” (2) In her weekend column, Jonetta Rose Barras quotes a “high-ranking District official” who calls the current government a “kleptocracy.” Citing the Kwamemobiles and Gray’s political hires, she concludes that “the official’s assessment, however harsh, is more accurate than not.” The official continues: “There is a culture of excuses in this city. ... Excuses are like a narcotic. They are addictive and rob you of your dignity.” Jonetta says it’s time to rise up: “Is it time for a Tunisia? Short of such a revolution, District residents should bury Brown and Gray with expressions of dissatisfaction.” And, she writes, the council needs to act strongly to bring Gray’s political hiring under control. (3) Doug Parrish contributes a commentary to Georgetown Patch: “It’s hard to know which is worse — a politician accused of playing dirty to reach the top, or a wannabe politician willing to slime his way to a government appointment. It’s pathetic, really. ... It’s just too bad we’re stuck with these images. One, of a man accused of cronyism and who very well may be untouchable at this point. The other, of a man snivelling and conniving for whatever crumbs fall his way. Neither reflects well on the District.”

NEPOTISM UPDATE — Brandon Webb, son of new DOES Director Rochelle Webb, resigned from his $110,000-a-year special assistant job with Fire and Emergency Medical Services, WUSA-TV reports: “Webb was a community outreach worker. ... He submitted his resignation Friday, according to Lon Walls, the communications director for the agency. The resignation is effective March 25. ... Walls said Webb started with DC Fire and EMS in January. He said Webb was a good and qualified employee but said Webb decided to resign to avoid any appearance of nepotism.” (The Post had asked about his appointment early last week.) Also: WTTG-TV covered the “Cheh report,” and its findings that several agency heads and political appointees exceed statuary salary caps.

KWAME’S POTENTIAL SIX-FIGURE MISTAKE — This will do nothing to improve Kwame Brown’s reputation for fiscal sloppiness: The D.C. Council chairman may have failed to report more than $250,000 in contributions and expenditures related to his 2008 re-election campaign, Tim Craig reports in today’s Post. A final report has yet to be issued in a monthslong Office of Campaign Finance audit, but some new numbers appeared in a report uploaded to the OCF Web site last week: “]D]ata attached to the online file appeared to have stemmed from the audit. Brown’s list of donors included a line indicating that there had been $102,763 in ‘contributions previously not reported per aud[it].’ There also was an entry for $169,431 in ‘expenditures previously not reported per audit.’ ... Wesley Williams, a spokesman for the Office of Campaign Finance, said the financial information was posted by mistake. It was removed from the Web site Thursday afternoon. Williams said the figures represented ‘preliminary audit findings’ and should be viewed as ‘still inconclusive.’” Said Brown, “We have given them all the information they need and look forward to this being brought to closure quickly.” Writes Tim: “The release of the final audit could complicate Brown’s efforts to move beyond recent revelations about his personal finances and stewardship of tax dollars.”

CAN BOEE GIVE MARA A FAIR SHAKE? — On Sunday, the Post editorial board criticized how the Board of Elections and Ethics has handled challenges to Republican council candidate Patrick Mara’s ballot petitions. “The process, dominated by Democrats, has not inspired confidence that the decision will be fair and impartial,” the editorialists write. Of particular concern is the BOEE finding that some Mara petition pages contain potential signature forgeries. “The board’s actions raise several troubling questions. Why weren’t the anomalies discovered during the preliminary review? Why did the board not inform Mr. Mara’s campaign on Thursday of its discovery? How was it that both the [Sekou Biddle] campaign and this page were aware of the charges of possible forgery well before Mr. Mara’s campaign was notified? And was there consultation between the board and the Biddle campaign about whether the challenge should be withdrawn?” The board proceeds to renew its call for a Republican member on the three-member BOEE, as “]i]t’s disturbing that a totally Democratic body will decide whether a Republican can stand for election. Citizens should watch carefully Monday to see what role that may play in the perpetuation of cozy one-party rule.” Read also today’s themail, in which Gary Imhoff claims the editorial “spread a lot of misinformation” about the petition challenge process — including that the BOEE need have a Republican by law.

UDC’S EXISTENTIAL CRISIS — UDC President Allen Sessoms appeared on Friday’s Kojo Nnamdi Show to defend his travel spending and the lack of receipts for it — noting among other things, that “sloppy recordkeeping has been maybe even a hallmark of the university for 30 years ... we are fixing it right now.” At some point, Tom Sherwood referred to the university as a backwater. That raised the Twitter hackles of UDC alumnus and former board member Eugene Kinlow, which in turn prompted activist and blogger Rudi Riet to explain “why DC doesn’t need UDC,” which he describes as “an institution that has no clear purpose and should be re-evaluated as to its mission and goals. ... While certain programs receive accreditation, the whole school has had a tenuous relationship with such status over its history. And like much of the District’s public education system, a lot of money is poured into UDC without much in the way of positive results.” Best, he says, to focus on the community college.

TAXING FOOD TRUCKS — Tuesday, Jack Evans will introduce legislation to require street vendors to collect the same 10 percent food-and-beverage sales tax as brick-and-mortar sellers. Jonathan O’Connell has the scoop in Capital Business: “The number of food trucks has grown dramatically in the last two years and Evans, chairman of the council’s finance and revenue committee, said the system of charging them just $1,500 per year in fees, devised in the early 1990s, is obsolete. According to the city, there are now 488 ‘roadway vendors,’ which include food trucks, ice cream trucks and other food sellers operating on the National Mall. There are an additional 642 ‘sidewalk vendors,’ which include many long-running hotdog and T-shirt stands. All of the vendors currently pay the $1,500 annual fee, but Evans’s bill would require them to all pay sales taxes instead. Evans also said the current system is ‘no longer fair or working’ for brick-and-mortar restaurants, which in addition to sales taxes also often pay for additional services from business improvement districts. But he said he was open to discussions about how best to both level the playing field and collect badly needed tax revenue from mobile vendors.”

*** SMALL PLATES ***

Confirmed: DPW prepaid $17,669 on the second Kwamemobile lease (Loose Lips)

$5.7M city insurance bill dates back to 2001, D.C. Auditor report finds (Examiner)

Federal lawsuit alleges “systematic problem” with disorderly conduct requests (WTOP)

“Eric Goulet, the Mayor’s Budget Director, said that the health and human services sector of the budget would face the large majority of the cuts.” (DCFPI)

At least 70 homeless families have been sent to a New York Avenue motel, at $89 a night (City Desk)

One of Ivey’s law partners led a Gray transition committee (Examiner)

Dr. G explains the late-night Metro tradeoff (Dr. Gridlock)

DCPS’s No. 1 budget talking point: “The education of our students is the top priority for DCPS, from the chancellor to every employee and staff member”; No. 2: “We appreciate Mayor Gray’s support of quality education and his faith in the work that we do in each of our schools.” (D.C. Schools Insider)

Schools Without Walls, Phelps Vocational hit especially hard by DCPS budget cuts; hearing today at Eastern (Examiner)

In prelude to IMPACT expansion, new tests for DCPS high school freshmen (D.C. Schools Insider)

Educare groundbreaking is tomorrow (Housing Complex)

Metro plans to allow free Farraguts transfer by fall (Examiner)

Prisoner describes how he managed D.C. Jail escape (Examiner)

Former APRA supervisor sentenced for double-dipping conviction (Examiner)

So when will a downtown buyer pay $1,000 a square foot? (Capital Business)

Can Carla Hall make something happen at the Stevens School? (Young Hungry)

The Potomac Gardens fence: What is to be done? (Housing Complex)

No, you can’t park in the 15th Street NW bike lanes (Daily Gripe, TBD)

First of three convicted in 2008 killing of Ginny and Michael Spevak gets 137 years (Post)

GWU senior allegedly used anti-gay slurs while beating fellow student; MPD calls it a hate crime (Hatchet, Advocate, Metro Weekly)

Preservationists want study of Union Station (WBJ)

DDOT tweaks regs for intercity bus stops (Dr. Gridlock)

Ward 4 Wal-Mart should go in for planning review by month’s end (Housing Complex)

Is Adrian Fenty in a “Struggle for the Soul of the Democratic Party”? (Oberlin Review)

So 14th Street collapsed over the weekend (Post Now)

*** ON THE MENU ***

D.C. Council oversight hearings on Sentencing and Criminal Code Revision Commission, Judicial Nomination Commission, Commission on the Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, Access to Justice, D.C. National Guard and Office of Victim Services, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; on Office of People’s Counsel, Public Service Commission and Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, 10 a.m. in JAWB 500 — special committee on parks contracting meets to mull release of the Trout Report, 11 a.m. in JAWB 123 — Jack Evans, Allen Sessoms on NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt, 10 a.m. on NewsChannel 8 — public hearing on schools budget, 5 p.m. at Eastern High School

By  |  10:32 AM ET, 03/14/2011

 
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