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Posted at 04:54 PM ET, 03/16/2011

Gray meets with business leaders to stave off doubts

UPDATED 5:25 P.M.

Aiming to ease concerns that his administration is descending into political chaos, Mayor Vincent C. Gray met Wednesday with key city business leaders.

After his weekly news conference, Gray (D) went to the downtown offices of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. There he met not only with the Chamber’s members and staff, said CEO Barbara Lang, but also with representatives of the Federal City Council, including CEO John Hill, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade, including its CEO, Jim Dinegar. In all, more than a dozen executives attended.

The first six weeks of Gray’s mayoralty were relatively uneventful, but since then Gray has been battered by news that his administration has offered top aides excessive salaries and jobs to some of their children. Most shockingly, mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown alleges that Gray’s campaign struck a deal to give him a city job in return for attacks on incumbent Adrian M. Fenty. Gray denies the charge, and investigations are underway.

”Obviously we’re very concerned about recent events and we wanted to give the mayor an opportunity to give his perspective on where do we go from here,” said Lang, who supported Gray’s campaign and served as co-chair of a transition committee.

Gray began the meeting by speaking for nearly a half-hour about the swirling controversies. While he discussed little that attendees hadn’t already read in news reports, Lang said, “it was an opportunity for him to say to this leadership, ‘This is what has happened, but I am going to move forward.’”

”People felt better because they hadn’t heard it directly from him,” she added.

Gray took questions for another half-hour, Lang said, adding that she and other executives were “satisfied and assured” by his responses. “It was something that needed to take place,” she said.

But while rumors of imminent personnel changes have been circulating, Gray did not mention any such moves at the meeting. “He implied that there would be some reassigning of responsibilities within in the Executive Office of the Mayor, but he didn’t talk about people or a particular job,” she said.

Also attending the meeting: Linda Rabbit, president and CEO of Rand Construction and the Federal City Council’s chair; Gary Tabach, chair of the Board of Trade and a regional managing partner of Deloitte & Touche; and Gina Adams, a FedEx vice president who serves as chair of the Chamber’s board. Representatives from the real estate and hospitality industries also attended, Lang said.

”It is in all our best interests to have our mayor succeed. If he succeeds, our city succeeds,” Lang said. “We all need to rally around our mayor.”\

UPDATE, 5:25 P.M.: At a news conference to announce the resignation of his chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, Gray said that the business leaders’ input had had no bearing on his decision to ask Hall to leave. He said that the final decision was made, however, after the meeting. Gray said that he told the crowd “about the distractions, that we were trying to stay as focused as we can, and that we were looking to move forward.”

By  |  04:54 PM ET, 03/16/2011

 
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