Fenty's Choices Already Causing Anxiety About Insular Approach

Some worry that Adrian M. Fenty's decision-making approach signals an impulsive nature that could create trouble once he takes over Jan. 2.
Some worry that Adrian M. Fenty's decision-making approach signals an impulsive nature that could create trouble once he takes over Jan. 2. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By David Nakamura and Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty's decision to select a new police chief without input from his closest advisers surprised and angered some of them and raised concerns about how his maverick style will play out once he heads the D.C. government.

Fenty nominated D.C. police Cmdr. Cathy L. Lanier on Monday to be the city's next chief and, according to Fenty, consulted only his designated city administrator, Dan Tangherlini, on the decision.

Left out of the selection -- arguably the most important a big-city mayor makes -- were the public safety experts on Fenty's transition team, the two chairmen of his campaign and key campaign consultants, including former D.C. police chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. To many, including some close advisers, the process smacked of a headstrong young mayor-in-waiting who appears to be relying on a committee of one to make critical decisions.

"The more you can vet this up front, the more you can avoid a contentious confirmation process," warned Vincent C. Gray (D), who in January will take over as chairman of the D.C. Council. Although the council probably will confirm the nomination of Lanier, a 16-year veteran and protege of Chief Charles H. Ramsey, none of the lawmakers were asked about her. Fenty offered Lanier the job three days after the election and kept the choice a secret until hours before his announcement Monday.

Fulwood, who advised Fenty on public safety issues during the campaign, seemed disturbed. "I was not in on the decision-making process," he said, adding that Fenty didn't mention Lanier to him during a brief telephone conversation Sunday. "I was surprised by the choice."

Tom Blagburn, a 23-year police official and member of Fenty's transition team on public safety, said Lanier "wasn't even on the radar screen."

"There must have been a lot of thought and deliberation" on Fenty's part, Blagburn said. But, he added, "anytime you make a major selection like that, you have to engage people. . . . It's very tough if you're mayor to make a decision without anyone else knowing about it."

For a candidate who swept the city's 142 precincts by establishing himself as a populist, Fenty, 35, has begun to develop a counterintuitive reputation as someone who eschews dialogue and consultation in favor of action and expediency.

He has filled other cabinet posts in nearly identical fashion. He announced after winning the Democratic primary in September that he probably would seek a takeover of the public school system -- even though he never mentioned the idea during the campaign. And he fired his longtime campaign spokesman by telephone shortly after the primary.

Some wonder whether this approach signals an impulsive nature that could create trouble as Fenty leads the city's 34,000-employee bureaucracy.

Fenty, who takes office Jan. 2, scoffed at suggestions that he is rash and insular. He noted that he conducted a two-year, door-to-door campaign in which he talked to thousands of residents.

"Having run for mayor for two years, I think I have a really good idea what people are looking for," Fenty said. "In a new way, the campaign had me listen to the advisers, which are the people of the District of Columbia. I really take a lot of their concerns to heart in my decision-making process."


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