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Parks appointment escalates feud between Fenty, D.C. council

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has had several other squabbles with the council.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has had several other squabbles with the council. (Richard A. Lipski/the Washington Post)
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According to D.C. law, a mayoral appointee to lead an agency can serve up to 180 days while awaiting confirmation. With Hartsock's interim appointment expiring next week, Fenty's order Friday appoints her for up to six more months.

Nickles said Fenty decided to keep Hartsock in her position while he searches for another nominee to present to the council. Nickles said the law allows Fenty to reappoint Hartsock for "a reasonable time period to assure government continuity."

"The mayor and his colleagues will be seeking to name a new acting director as soon as we find someone," Nickles said.

But council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), chairman of the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation, accused Fenty of having a "blatant disrespect for the laws of the District of Columbia."

"This is truly government at its worse," Thomas said. "What would make the mayor believe his judgment is better than a whole body that reviewed this and decided [Hartsock] is incompetent?"

'Clearly it's legal'

Thomas led the fight against Hartsock's confirmation and said he will ask the chief financial officer to withhold Hartsock's pay. Thomas is also considering emergency legislation to remove Hartsock.

In battling over the legality of Fenty's decision, Nickles and Thomas appear to be leaning on different sections of the Confirmation Act of 1978.

Aides to Thomas note that the code says, "No person shall serve in an acting capacity in a position that is required by law to be filled by Mayoral appointment without the advice and consent of the Council."

However, another section of the code cited by Hartsock supporters suggests she can remain in a "holdover position" for up to 180 days after the expiration of her term.

"Clearly it's legal," Nickels said.

Housing Authority

Adding to the controversy, Thomas said Hartsock shares the blame in the decision to direct the park projects to the Housing Authority. By law, the council must approve contracts that exceed $1 million

Clark E. Ray, who was fired by Fenty and replaced with Hartsock, said he used the Housing Authority's Construction Services Administration to complete some projects before he left his post. But he said all of the expensive jobs went through the council. "We made sure we did everything by the book," he said. "Everything that went over $1 million went before the council."

On Friday, Nickles said the contracts in question must be submitted to the council. But he said the council should be wary of rejecting the contracts, which he said, were competitively bid. "If they reject them . . . they'll have to answer to the voters," said Nickles, noting that several projects have broken ground.

Fenty is up for reelection next year, and at least two council members are considering running against him. Few expect the tension to subside.

"We all need to find a way to repair this," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "The current course is not the route, but I am not sure what is. This is an ever escalating situation."


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