D.C. Council chief defends use of big firm for home repairs

Gray (Marcus Yam - The Washington Post)
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By Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 19, 2009

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said Wednesday that he saw no problem with getting repairs and architectural services for his Southeast home in recent months using a construction firm owned by megadeveloper Chris Smith.

Beginning in July, WCS Construction provided several services, including fixing a lock on a gate, painting, installing floodlights and power washing his driveway, according to invoices that Gray (D) produced Wednesday, the same day that the Washington Times published an article on the repairs.

The Times article raised questions about whether Gray had used his influence to get the repairs from a developer that usually does not perform work on single-family residences. The company is heavily involved in development east of the Anacostia River and is also known as a regional leader. It is a partner in the city's $700 million Northwest One project, which will replace low-income housing with mixed-income housing, stores and offices.

Gray produced an Oct. 30 invoice from WCS that totaled $10,051, including $5,000 for architectural services that he said were related to the renovation of four rooms on the first floor of his Hillcrest home. Gray said that the design has been completed but that no plans have been finalized for the renovation.

"I did nothing wrong. . . . I went to him as someone I knew and respected and trusted," Gray said. "There is no favor-trading involved in this. This is someone I've known for 15 years."

Gray is considering a challenge to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in next year's Democratic primary.

In recent weeks, Gray supporters have said he could fashion a campaign around questions about Fenty's ethical standards. In addition to the Times article, Gray faced questions Wednesday from reporters about a Washington Post report that he used his official stationery last summer to solicit a $20,000 contribution from Comcast for the D.C. Democratic Party. The company, which is regulated by the District, gave the committee $10,000.

In an interview with NewsChannel 8 Wednesday night, Gray told host Bruce DePuyt that he thinks the allegations are politically motivated.

"Isn't it interesting they came up at this point?" Gray asked.

Gray told The Post that he paid the $10,000 bill to WCS over the weekend. He said the payment was not prompted by the Times' inquiries, which he said he first heard of Monday.

"Is it unreasonable to pay a bill like this within two weeks of when I got it?" Gray asked in an interview.

The Times' article said the work was done by William C. Smith & Co., which does not typically do home repairs. But an invoice shows the work was actually done by WCS Construction, which a company spokeswoman said specializes in multi-family construction.

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