Key names to remember:
●Eric W. Payne, a former director in the city’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer;
●Natwar M. Gandhi, the chief financial officer;
●D.C. Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2);
●D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D); and
●The 2008 lottery contract winner, Intralot, and its joint venture partner, W2 Tech (also known as W2I), a minority firm led by Warren C. Williams Jr.
There are other players in this slimy saga, but these are the major protagonists.
Payne was the CFO’s director of contracts from 2006 until January 2009, when he claims he was wrongfully terminated for reporting abuses of authority and for refusing to carry out an illegal order to terminate and rebid a lottery contract that had been awarded in January 2008 to Intralot and W2 Tech.
Payne sued the city and Gandhi, seeking judicial review of his termination. Payne also sought to depose Graham, Evans and Gray (who was chairman of the D.C. Council at the time of the contract award) regarding their communications with Gandhi about the lottery contract.
Payne contends, through a sworn affidavit filed in federal court, that Graham, Evans and Gray knew about his wrongful termination. Payne also said the three politicians had direct communications with Gandhi and himself regarding a change to the contract award.
Graham, Evans and Gray, through their D.C. government lawyers, have resisted giving depositions in the lawsuit on the grounds that council members have “an absolute legislative privilege from being compelled to testify about actions taken within the scope of their legislative duties.” They add that their legislative duties included “efforts to gather information, deliberations and votes related to the contract.”
Payne, through his lawyer Donald Temple, counters that the politicians were doing nothing of the sort. Temple said that the council members’ actions “were inappropriate attempts to influence or change the contract outcome.”
Gray, Graham and Evans have refused to respond to questions about this matter, citing the pending litigation and the advice of counsel.
There are, however, good reasons to hope that the federal judge hearing Payne’s suit will compel the three to be deposed under oath about their roles in the lottery contract award.
Payne’s affidavit states that after he met with Gandhi and others in Gray’s office in May 2008, “Gray asked Gandhi to remain behind and they met privately.”
Immediately after that meeting, the affidavit continues, Gandhi summoned Payne into a meeting with staff and “repeatedly cajoled and exhorted him to cancel the proposed lottery contract and reopen the process.”
Payne “resisted and advised the CFO that there was no legal basis upon which to do so and that the contract’s cancellation was legally impermissible,” the affidavit states, adding that Gandhi responded, “To continue with the proposed award would only antagonize the Chairman.”