D.C. official ordered to explain home-improvement projects

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has ordered D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray to apply for permits for electrical work completed at his Southeast home this year and to explain last year's installation of an iron fence and electric garage door -- projects that Gray said Monday had helped set off an investigation by the Office of Campaign Finance.

Gray (D) said in an interview that he would comply, although he said that he thought it was contractors' responsibility to secure permits.

The campaign finance office is investigating the home improvements and Gray's use of official council stationery to solicit a $10,000 contribution from Comcast to the D.C. Democratic Party.

The Washington Times first reported the upgrades to Gray's home, and The Washington Post reported the use of the stationery. Gray said he gave the campaign finance office an initial response Monday.

Both issues raise questions about whether Gray wielded the influence of his office and come amid buzz that he will challenge Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in next year's Democratic primary.

"Nobody wants to undergo an investigation, of course," Gray said. "I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated. I hope they can do it quickly."

There is no timeline on the campaign finance probe, but DCRA has given Gray 10 days from receipt of a Dec. 4 letter to comply with getting a permit or risk facing a fine.

In the two-page letter, Lennox Douglas, chief of DCRA's permits division, told Gray that "it appears the electrical wiring for the exterior flood lights and installation of interior outlets would require supplemental permits."

The letter also said: "Without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied or make costly repairs."

Douglas said that Gray needs to "promptly" report any other work, referring to the iron fence and electric garage door reported by The Washington Times.

WCS Construction, a company owned by mega-developer Chris Smith, whom Gray calls a friend, and its subcontractors completed the upgrades that included the electrical work, starting in July. Gray later provided media outlets with invoices that he had paid in October.

Officials at WCS Construction and Mid-Atlantic Deck and Fence Co., which worked on the 2008 projects, could not be reached for comment.

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