E-mails by Gray advisers included frank talk

E-mails among Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s top advisers earlier this year about hiring decisions in his administration reveal conversations that touched on an applicant’s weight and another’s language abilities — among other candid exchanges.

In one of the approximately 800 e-mails released Wednesday by a council committee investigating hiring practices by the Gray administration, a cabinet member reached out in January to former interim human resources director Judy Banks and Gerri Mason Hall, the mayor’s former chief of staff, and Gray confidante Lorraine A. Green. The e-mail sender wanted to know whether the women knew a candidate being considered for a job in the administration.

“I know her very well, I could not recommend her to you if you are looking for speed, accuracy, proficiency,” Banks responded. “She’s 300 lbs . . .

That same month, Banks, Green and Hall discussed an internal candidate as a possible a city agency head, according to the e-mails. Banks wrote: “Listening to him . . . Articulating it in the proper King’s english is another issue. I still think he should be considered.”

Banks, the director of human resources at the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, and Hall’s attorney, Kenneth Wainstein, declined to comment Thursday.

Thomas C. Green, Green’s attorney (no relation), declined to comment on the specific e-mails but called the release of the electronic correspondence “deplorable” and questioned whether it was an invasion of privacy.

The e-mails contrast with earlier statements Thomas C. Green made to The Washington Post that his client did not vet or interview job candidates. The e-mails show that Lorraine Green, who is under scrutiny for her role in offering a city job to minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, helped screen top-level appointees and doled out license plate assignments.

The correspondence is expected to be part of a hearing of a D.C. Council committee investigating the administration’s hiring practices. Green, who headed Gray’s campaign and transition team, is scheduled to testify Friday.

Other e-mail exchanges show that Gray (D) wanted Lorraine Green to interview Beatriz “B.B.” Otero, who was later appointed deputy mayor for health and human services. Otero did not return a call or an e-mail seeking comment.

Thomas Green said his client never followed through. “She never did interview anyone ever. Ever,” he said. “It turned out it never happened. She assiduously avoided that.”

The council’s Committee on Government Operations and the Environment launched an investigation into allegations of nepotism and high salaries during the Gray administration’s hiring. Four of the five children of Gray’s campaign or government staff resigned during an avalanche of criticism. Gray fired Hall because he said she had become a “distraction,” and her son later resigned from a city job.

Meanwhile, Gray also did not submit planned legislation to compensate top staff with salaries that exceeded the city’s legal caps.

The administration has also been criticized for a poor vetting process after revelations of the legal troubles of some employees, including Brown.

Although Brown has had six run-ins with law enforcement through the years, he was given a $110,000-a-year job as a special assistant in the Department of Health Care Finance.

After he was dismissed, Brown told The Post that he was promised a job in the administration in return for verbal attacks on then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty during last year’s election. He also alleged that he received payments from Green and campaign consultant Howard Brooks. The Post has not been able to independently verify payments, and Gray, Green and Brooks have denied the allegations.

Brown said he is cooperating with inquiries by the U.S. attorney’s office and a congressional committee but has refused to testify before the council committee.

Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who is chairman of the government operations committee, has excused Brooks and his son, Peyton Brooks, who resigned from his $110,000-a-year special assistant city job, because they both planned to take the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

Banks testified twice after council members found that her statements contradicted that of other witnesses.

The council committee is awaiting the release of all of Banks’s e-mails during her tenure as interim human resources director. She took a leave of absence from the convention center job to temporarily work in the Gray administration at the recommendation of Green.

Staff writers Mike DeBonis and Tim Craig contributed to this report.

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