E-mails detail Vincent Gray advisers role shaping administration


Mayor Vincent Gray talks with Lorraine Green on April 24, 2010. (MARVIN JOSEPH/WASHINGTON POST)

Newly obtained e-mails detail how a small group of advisers, including mayoral confidante Lorraine A. Green, directed hiring in the early days of the administration of Vincent C. Gray.

The trove of more than 800 e-mails, released to members of a D.C. Council committee investigating Gray’s hiring practices, contrasts with statements Green’s attorney made to The Washington Post that she did not vet or interview job candidates.

Green, who is under scrutiny for her role in offering a city job to minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, was involved in matters as mundane as doling out license plate assignments and as significant as helping screen his top-level appointees, the e-mails show.

Green regularly exchanged e-mails with then-Chief of Staff Gerri Mason Hall and former interim human resources director Judy Banks to discuss potential candidates for appointments. The e-mails appear to show that Green reached out to interview Beatriz “B.B.” Otero, who was appointed deputy mayor for health and human services. Gray requested that Green personally interview her, according to one e-mail.

Green and her attorney, Thomas C. Green (no relation), did not immediately return phone calls or e-mails requesting a comment. Thomas Green previously said in e-mail responses on an earlier story about Green’s role in the transition and campaign that she “did not personally interview or vet any candidates.” Banks declined to comment, as did Kenneth Wainstein, Hall’s attorney.

Green is scheduled to testify Friday before the council’s Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, which is holding its fourth hearing into the Gray administration’s hiring practices. Earlier hearings have featured testimony from other high-level Gray administration officials — including Banks and Hall — that described the hiring practices that put relatives of those officials in city jobs and gave others unusually high salaries.

In a statement Wednesday night, Linda Wharton Boyd, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said that it was not unusual for the mayor to rely on Green because of her experience in human resources.

“It is completely expected and routine to rely upon human-resource experts and other qualified professionals to assist in the discussion, vetting, inquiry, questioning and finally in making recommendations to the decision maker,” Boyd said. “There is nothing untoward or improper in Lorraine Green . . . lending her considerable experience and expertise in helping to establish a talented, committed, well-credentialed group of seasoned professionals to help lead the District government.”

Green served as the chairwoman of Gray’s mayoral campaign and his transition, but since Brown alleged that she and campaign consultant Howard Brooks made payments to him to continue his mayoral campaign attacks on Adrian M. Fenty, she has faded from public view. Green, Gray and Brooks have denied the allegations, and The Post has not been able to independently verify any payments.

The e-mails also loop Brooks into plans to shut down the mayor’s transition team Web site and to hold a party for those who worked on the transition.

In an e-mail a job seeker, Maya Washington, mentions Brooks and Green when asking Hall about a potential job in the administration. “. . . I know Mr. Brooks said he and Lorraine were working on somethings to try to figure out where to place me. I have not heard anything from them yet. However I just wanted to express my continued interest and working with the new administration. Thank you for all of your guidance and assistance thus far,” Washington wrote.

Washington did not return an e-mailed request for comment. Glenn F. Ivey, Brooks’s attorney, did not return a call for comment.

Among Green’s duties, the e-mails indicate, she was responsible for developing a list of political supporters who would be rewarded with low-numbered license plates — a traditional reward in city politics.

Green, who in March retired as a top human-resources executive at Amtrak, was also looped in on issues related to Union Station — particularly a mayoral appointment to a redevelopment authority and about concerns to its connection with a planned streetcar line.

In December, Gray’s son, Carlos Gray, e-mailed Green with a resume and cover letter for his “best friend,” Greg Meeropol. Gray said they worked together at the D.C. Housing Authority, noting that he “worked on ALL of Vince’s campaigns, and played a prominent role on this Mayoral campaign.”

Green later wrote to Hall and Banks: “before I answer Greg back (to say I don’t know what he is talking about) . . . are you aware of a position we are working on for him or is this another Carlos special?”

Carlos Gray and Meeropol did not return calls Wednesday night. The appointment of Ganayswaran Nathan, a campaign supporter who is a former chief financial officer for the University of the District of Columbia, was of high-level interest, the e-mails suggest.

On Feb. 9, Green sent an e-mail to Hall: “VCG wants Nathan placed in Health Care Finance,” she wrote to Hall. “Reuben has details,” referring to Reuben O. Charles II, a key transition member.

On Feb. 11, Banks wrote to Health Care Finance Director Wayne Turnage: “Wayne THIS is the top priority appointment the Mayor wants us to make in Health Care Finance. Please contact him ASAP.”

Eleven minutes later, Turnage responded “On it” to Banks.

A couple of minutes later, Banks wrote back: “Huge political capital riding on this one thanks for expediting and I await your direction.”

Thirteen minutes later, Turnage wrote back with good news: “Just spoke to him. This will be easy — the guy is quite talented. . . . I would love to have this guy.”

According to e-mails another job seeker, Ron Magnus, thought that mega-developer R. Donahue Peebles had secured him a job, but it didn’t materialize and he wrote to Green.

“To say that I am deeply disappointed at this development would be an understatement,” he e-mailed on Feb. 19.

In an e-mail a little later to Green, Banks writes that she’s dealt with Magnus: “Got Ron Magnus off Gerri’s plate, it beyond full. Vince made no promises regarding this, know him very well from [Williams] administration, of no real value in [Gray’s] administration.”

Magnus recalled the back-and-forth of trying to get a job in the administration, but he said “to put Don in the middle of it, it wouldn’t be fair.” He said Peebles reminded the mayor of previous conversations Magnus had with Gray about getting a job. He also said he volunteered with the transition team and talked directly to Green about getting a job.

The e-mails also include a list of calls for Hall to make, including to attorney Fred Cooke about his representation of D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5). Thomas is under investigation by the District’s attorney general concerning the finances of organizations he controlled.

Thomas said Wednesday night that he was not aware that Cooke ever met with Gray on his behalf. “I’ve never even met with the attorney general,” he said.

Cooke said that he could not confirm he didn’t request a meeting with Gray for Thomas but that he didn’t recall doing so. “I believe if I had wanted to do that, I would have done it more directly,” he said.

This story has been updated.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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