The Post’s View

Answers please, Mr. Gray

VINCENT C. GRAY’S campaign for mayor was built on a promise to unite D.C. residents — regardless of race, age or geography — into “one city.” The city is coming together. Unfortunately, it is in disappointment at his performance. The mayor may discount as politically motivated the calls for his resignation by some D.C. Council members, but he cannot ignore the citizens. Unless he addresses their concerns, he will be unable to lead the city.

A Post poll shows that a majority of city residents, 54 percent, believes Mr. Gray (D) has been so compromised by scandals tarnishing his 2010 mayoral campaign that he should resign. Only three in 10 approve of the job he is doing as mayor; only 22 percent think he is honest and trustworthy. His approval rating — a dismal 29 percent — is worse than that of Marion Barry when the embattled mayor lost control of the city to a financial control board.

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Three people associated with Mr. Gray’s 2010 primary campaign have pleaded guilty to federal felony charges, and the U.S. attorney’s probe is continuing. Already it has confirmed the existence of an illegally financed shadow campaign that corrupted the election two years ago. In the face of this, Mr. Gray has maintained adamantly that he has no plans to resign. After council members David A. Catania (I-At Large), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) urged him to step down, Mr. Gray pressed others to withhold judgment until federal investigators complete their probe.

It will be up to law enforcement authorities to determine if Mr. Gray is complicit in the backroom deals, dirty tricks and secret money that aided his Democratic primary victory over then-mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). But, as was reflected by The Post’s poll, residents expect more from their top elected official than that he not be a felon.

That is why it is essential for him to answer questions about his activities or knowledge of events: about the money from his campaign paid to a minor mayoral candidate so that he could continue his attacks on Mr. Fenty, and about how hundreds of thousands of dollars — allegedly from a businessman with large city contracts — illegally supported Mr. Gray’s election. Federal prosecutors have said that this unlawful shadow campaign was coordinated with members of the official campaign.

By largely keeping silent, Mr. Gray is no doubt following the advice of Robert Bennett, his capable defense attorney. If the mayor had only himself to look out for, that would be fine. But his mayoralty is at stake. What’s prudent for someone caught up in a federal investigation isn’t necessarily right for the city. If he can’t or won’t speak out to bolster his leadership role, then he needs to ask himself if there is any point in staying in office.

 
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