D.C. Mayor-elect Gray unveils transition team

By Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 10:27 PM

Vincent C. Gray began his first day as mayor-elect with a traditional unveiling of his transition team - a signal that he will apply his deliberative leadership style to his administration and a noticeable difference from incumbent Adrian M. Fenty's fast-charging style of governance.

Four years ago, Fenty (D) announced his transition team and also appointed his city administrator and chief of staff the day after he was elected. But Gray (D) rolled out a 16-member transition team that will guide him over the course of the next several weeks in shaping his administration.

At a midday news conference near his new fourth-floor transition office in the Reeves Center, Gray said he would have lunch with President Obama on Dec. 1, an invitation that he received Tuesday when he won the general election with 74 percent of the vote. A write-in campaign for Fenty appeared to draw 23 percent of the vote.

The strong write-in effort and a shift to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives presents Gray with the immediate challenge of sharpening his skills at wooing potential detractors.

The primary and general elections showed a city still fractured by several divisions, said Gray, a 67-year-old native Washingtonian. "It also became clear that there is much that unites us as a city," Gray said, adding that he planned to meet Wednesday with Fenty, whom he described as "gracious."

He said he would tell residents who wrote-in Fenty that "the message is: 'Work with us. . . . We have the interest of this city sincerely at heart.' "

Gray said he plans to meet with GOP congressional leaders soon to urge them to allow the city to manage itself.

Members of the team

Managing his transition will be longtime friend and adviser Lorraine Green, an executive at Amtrak who has a career in personnel.

Gray's picks for his transition appeared to reflect the priorities for his administration: the budget, economic development and jobs, and education.

Interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, the deputy chancellor who replaced Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee on Monday, attended the news conference, though she did not speak. Leading the transition team to tackle Gray's plans to expand school reform to pre-kindergarten, vocational education and higher education will be Michael Lomax, president and chief executive of the _blankUnited Negro College Fund, and Katherine Bradley, the president and co-founder of _blankCityBridge Foundation, a nonprofit that has pushed universal pre-K.

Lomax and Bradley were among the targets of Gray's behind-the-scenes efforts to ease the fears of philanthropists and education advocates about losing Rhee and rolling back reform if he was elected.

As announced previously, former mayor Anthony A. Williams and economist Alice M. Rivlin, both credited with digging the city out of its fiscal crisis in the 1990s, will advise Gray on the city's budget. Meanwhile, former George Washington University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and Barbara Lang, president and chief executive of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, will tackle economic development and have been asked to find ways to address the city's record unemployment immediately.

Other transition team members include Maria Gomez, head of _blankMary's Center for Maternal and Child Care; Chinatown activist Alexander Chi; and former attorney general Robert J. Spagnoletti, who was Gray's personal attorney in a dispute with city about a fence he installed at his Hillcrest home without a permit.

Tax troubles

Although Gray's news conference was uneventful, he faced tough questions about his decision to throw his victory party at Love nightclub, owned by Marc Barnes, who owes more than $860,000 in back sales taxes to the city, and about his selection of entrepreneur Reuben Charles to run the day-to-day operations of his transition.

A few hours after Gray's announcement, the Washington City Paper reported that _blankCharles also owes $236,620.74 in unpaid sales and use taxes in Illinois.

In an interview, Charles said the lien, issued by the Illinois Department of Revenue, is not a personal debt.

He said he previously served on the board of directors of an Illinois-based company that he was unaware had failed to pay its taxes. He said that under the state's tax laws, board members are listed as being liable for company-based debts. He declined to immediately identify the name of the business but said the issue should be resolved within a few days.

"We are getting that removed in terms of my record," Charles said. "I do not have income in the state of Illinois at all that I owe taxes on."

Joshua Langfelder, recorder of the Sangamon County Recorder's Office, said records suggest the debt might be both personal and professional.

"I would say it's attached to him because it has his Social [Security number] on it, but also has [an employer identification number], which makes me believe it's something attached to his business," Langfelder said. He referred further questions to the Illinois Department of Revenue, which was unavailable to comment.

Charles, who was a venture capitalist in St. Louis before moving to the District three years ago, has had several tax liens and judgments that he said were related to his business career.

Gray deflected questions Wednesday on Charles and Barnes, promising to be "open and transparent" without addressing his judgment in the matters.

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