City Job Was Found for Brazil Aide
Advisers Deemed Personal Relationship Too Distracting
By Serge F. Kovaleski and Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 22, 2004; Page A01
Advisers to D.C. Council member Harold Brazil asked the Williams administration in 2001 to give a political appointment to a woman who had been working on Brazil's staff and with whom he was having a close personal relationship, according to interviews.
In early 2001, city records show, the D.C. Office of Property Management responded by offering the woman, Aimee Occhetti, a position as special assistant to the director. Occhetti, a lawyer who had worked on Brazil's council committee, received a $21,000 raise and currently earns $78,356 a year.
Moving Occhetti was considered necessary by Brazil's advisers and some of his aides because they believed the relationship had become too public and was a distraction for his council staff, according to five individuals who are knowledgeable about the situation.
They said efforts to find Occhetti a new job were handled by Joe Louis Ruffin Jr., an official in the council member's 2000 campaign, and Robert Lee "Bob" Jones, a political insider with close ties to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and a friend of the city's property management director at the time, Timothy F. Dimond. Neither Jones nor Ruffin was an employee of the D.C. government.
Jones acknowledged his role in an interview but said he believed that Brazil was not involved. "I did not talk to Harold about Aimee's move, and to my knowledge no one else did until she had an offer," Jones said.
Jones and Ruffin worked on the arrangement with Dimond, according to three people familiar with the talks. Mark A. Jones, at the time the mayor's deputy chief of staff, said he also held discussions about Occhetti with Bob Jones and Ruffin at the city's Judiciary Square office.
Mark Jones said in an interview that he had several conversations with Ruffin and Bob Jones about giving the special assistant's job to Occhetti in early 2001. Mark Jones said the discussions took place before he and Abdusalam Omer, then the mayor's chief of staff, approved the move.
"I did meet with Joe and Bob. We had more than one conversation about it," Mark Jones said. "They wanted Aimee to get the job."
Brazil, 55, who is married and has served on the D.C. Council since 1991, is one of the mayor's closest allies on the council. He is seeking reelection this year as an at-large representative.
Brazil declined to be interviewed.
Darden Copeland, Brazil's campaign manager, said Occhetti got the job with the help of Erik S. Gaull, who at the time was an aide to then-City Administrator John A. Koskinen. Gaull is out of the country and could not be reached.
In a statement provided by Copeland, Gaull said that his wife worked with Occhetti in Brazil's office. Gaull's wife, Karen Severy, was a research specialist on the council's Committee on the Judiciary, which Brazil chaired and where Occhetti worked.
"Aimee has often publicly credited me with providing the entree that made it possible to be hired by Director Tim Dimond," Gaull's statement said, adding that Occhetti had expressed interest in moving to the executive branch. "There was never any assistance in this regard from Councilmember Brazil."
Occhetti, 35, declined to be interviewed. In an e-mail, she denied any suggestion that she got the job through the intervention of others.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company