District Notebook:

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) praised D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) at a public event in Columbia Heights on Monday morning, even as Graham continued to be battered with questions over the arrest last week of his chief of staff.

Fenty and Graham attended the grand opening of a $1.6 million fountain and plaza in the heart of the redeveloped Columbia Heights business and entertainment district on 14th Street.

During Fenty's remarks, he said Graham deserves credit for helping to turn the once-stagnant corridor into one of the city's most bustling retail and residential communities.

"This area, when Jim Graham took over, the entire area couldn't have looked any more different," said Fenty, referring to Graham's election in 1998. "Columbia Heights has come a long, long way in the 10 or 11 years he has been in office."

Graham did not address the charges against his chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, who is accused of accepting a $1,500 bribe. But Graham, who has been an integral part of most redevelopment projects in the area, said the transformation of Columbia Heights ranks among his top achievements.

"It's been absolutely phenomenal what happened here, and it's all for the good," Graham said. "It's all for the public interest."

Fenty later said that he is under orders from city Attorney General Peter Nickles not to discuss or publicly comment on an FBI investigation into the taxi industry, which resulted in the arrest.

"My attorneys want everything referred to them," Fenty said. "Because it's ongoing and because of the legal and criminal nature of all the allegations, the attorney general has asked everyone in the executive branch to refer all questions to him."

When a reporter asked Fenty for his "personal thoughts" on the arrest, Fenty said, "It would be inappropriate for me to go beyond anything that the attorney general has said about the matter."

"I appreciate everyone's patience," Fenty said. "Not only is it a federal, criminal investigation; my understanding is it's ongoing."

Fenty wouldn't discuss whether the investigation, as well as this summer's controversy involving council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), demonstrates a need for a rewrite of city ethics laws.

"I don't have any comment," Fenty said. "The FBI is handling it, and that is who should be handling it."

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