Mendelson Says He's Been Ignored

By Yolanda Woodlee and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 20, 2008

When it comes to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration, D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson is a bit like Rodney Dangerfield: He gets no respect.

Mendelson has been one of the mayor's most vocal critics; Fenty, in turn, has routinely ignored him when making the rounds to sew up votes on critical initiatives, such as the school takeover. Mendelson opposed it.

The latest slight, as Mendelson (D-At Large) tells it, came as he tried to get information from the Office of Property Management on why the administration was proposing to pay 340 percent more to lease the police department's evidence warehouse.

He said he had hoped the council would vote to reject the lease, which increased from $264,000 to $1.1 million a year. Mendelson questioned why the evidence warehouse could not move to 225 Virginia Ave. SE., where the city is paying $542,000 a month for empty space that was meant to house the police headquarters.

At an oversight hearing Monday, Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, figured he'd finally get an answer from Robin-Eve Jasper, the property management office's acting director. But Jasper didn't attend. And when Mendelson asked Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier about the issue, she had few details, Mendelson said.

(Lanier's spokeswoman, Traci Hughes, told the Notebook that the chief answered what she could but that the details have been left to the property management office.)

To make matters worse, Mendelson said, on the day of the hearing, Jasper sent a letter explaining the terms of the lease to council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) -- but failed to send a copy to him. "It's curious the director couldn't come to a hearing to answer my questions, but the director had time to send a 2 1/2 -page letter to a colleague," Mendelson said.

Bill Rice, spokesman for Jasper, said she had a scheduling conflict Monday: She was testifying at Chairman Vincent C. Gray's Committee of the Whole, and "it was not an intentional slight of council member Mendelson."

Despite Mendelson's concerns, his colleagues voted Tuesday not to reject the lease.

Mendelson's take: They were "afraid to go against the mayor."

A Challenger Cries Foul

The Ward 2 D.C. Council race is just getting started, but already Cary Silverman is crying foul.

Silverman, the upstart trying to knock off four-term incumbent Jack Evans (D), grew irritated when he recently received in the mail a copy of Evans's eight-page "Around Ward 2" newsletter, detailing Evans's accomplishments.

To Silverman, the newsletter seemed a blatant campaign brochure masked as a routine constituent update. In an interview, Silverman, a lawyer, said: "It was over the top. . . . It just struck me as not aboveboard."

So Silverman said he reviewed D.C. campaign laws and discovered restrictions on the size of photos, number of photos and some other items that he claimed Evans might have violated. Silverman has asked the D.C. auditor and inspector general to investigate. He copied his e-mail complaint to the city's Office of Campaign Finance. "This is a misuse of public funds," he said.

What also frustrates Silverman is that he's spent the $16,000 his campaign has raised -- and is $250 in debt -- on yard and window signs. Evans, a business community favorite, has more than $168,000 in his coffers, but he presumably spent council funds on the newsletter.

Silverman also issued a news release that hits Evans, who oversees the Committee on Finance and Revenue, on the $50 million embezzlement at the Office of Tax and Revenue. "In a year in which it was revealed that the theft of millions of taxpayer dollars and fraud went undetected, how can we have faith in the ability of Jack Evans to oversee the District's finances when his own office improperly spends thousands of dollars in public funds to send out what is ostensibly a campaign brochure," Silverman wrote.

In response, Evans pointed to other council members' newsletters, saying they must all be in violation of a law that's not enforced. He showed off slicker materials from members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), fanning them on a desk like magazines in a doctor's office. "Everyone has more pictures. They're glossier," he said. "They're nicer than mine."

Ackerman to Philadelphia

Former D.C. schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman was appointed by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to serve as the 170,000-student district's chief executive officer, officials said.

In the District, Ackerman served as chief academic officer during the financial control board days under schools chief executive Julius W. Becton Jr., and as superintendent from 1998 to 2000. After leaving the District, Ackerman served as superintendent in San Francisco. She teaches at Columbia University.

She will replace another D.C. schools veteran: Thomas M. Brady, who filled in as interim chief executive after the resignation of Paul Vallas. Brady, who served as chief operating officer for then-superintendent Clifford B. Janey, is expected to return to his former chief operating officer position in Philadelphia.

Staff writer V. Dion Haynes contributed to this report.

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