Speculation Grows on Attorney General Job

Peter J. Nickles
Peter J. Nickles (James M. Thresher - The Washington Post)
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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Interim D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles will hold a retreat for 100 senior managers and their families at his home in Great Falls this weekend, leading to speculation that he will be nominated for the permanent post by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

The intent of the retreat is to foster "bonding" among colleagues, Nickles said yesterday.

Nickles took over the attorney general's office in December after Linda Singer resigned because of friction with Nickles, who was then Fenty's general counsel. Recently, in a bid to save $3 million, he fired 10 attorneys and a manager, citing poor performance. Union officials have filed a grievance over the dismissals.

Nickles offended some by saying he wanted to build a first-rate law firm with "strong, young, able stars." Nickles also announced he would implement a professional dress code and require staffers to submit reports and time cards.

Yesterday, Nickles dismissed the suggestion that he was trying to mend fences. "We're not having the retreat to soften anyone up," he said. "I like the managers. They've done a good job for me and a great job for the city."

Under city law, Nickles can be interim attorney general for six months, which expires this month. Fenty has not said whether he intends to nominate Nickles for the position.

Nickles's nomination would be subject to confirmation by the D.C. Council. Some members, including Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who heads the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, have said that the attorney general must be independent of the mayor. Nickles is a longtime friend of Fenty's family, and he spent 11 months as the mayor's general counsel.

The attorney general represents the city's interests, deciding which cases to pursue and how to defend the District. The general counsel is an advocate for the mayor and is more likely to factor political pressures into decisions, some council members said.

Another potential sticking point is that most mayoral appointees, including the attorney general, must live in the District, and Nickles and his wife live in a home they have owned for decades in Great Falls. Some appointees have apartments in the District and homes elsewhere, including Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who maintains a residence in Maryland.

"The mayor and I have been talking about it, but I won't comment beyond that," Nickles said of his future. "At the appropriate time, there will be an announcement about what I'm going to do."

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