D.C. Mayor Gray fires chief of staff

Chief of staff Gerri Mason Hall talked with Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Feb.11.
Chief of staff Gerri Mason Hall talked with Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Feb.11. (The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 1:05 PM

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray fired his chief of staff Wednesday, moments before she was scheduled to testify before a D.C. Council committee on why some members of the administration were being paid salaries that exceeded the city's legal limits.

Gray (D) said he requested Gerri Mason Hall's resignation because she was becoming a "distraction," and personnel matters were "overshadowing the work of the government."

"I have decided this is the best direction for the city," Gray said. "I requested, and she accepted, her resignation."

Hall's firing comes after The Washington Post published an article last month showing that many on Gray's staff were making well into five figures more than their predecessors in the administration of former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), and that some salaries were breaking caps of $179,096 and $193,125, depending on classifications.

Another Post article reported on allegations by unsuccessful mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown that he was paid by the Gray campaign to attack Fenty. Brown said he was later rewarded with a high-paying city job.

Hall, a former executive at Sodexo, was a top administrator and was involved in some hiring decisions. Her salary was $200,000, which was $40,000 more than her predecessor's in the Fenty administration. Her son was given a job in the Department of Parks and Recreation, from which he later resigned.

In a statement Wednesday night, Hall said that "remaining in this position would only cause continued distractions for the Mayor and his administration. . . . I left the private sector to take this job - and my service to the city was a calling and never a source of self-enrichment."

The controversy has put a spotlight on Gray's hiring decisions as well as his longtime friendship with Lorraine Green, who chaired the mayor's campaign and transition.

Hall and Green have worked closely in the public and private sectors for the past two decades, and Hall's selection in December as chief of staff was widely viewed as a sign of Green's influence with the mayor.

Gray and Green have denied wrongdoing in the case of Brown's allegations. The U.S. attorney's office is assessing Brown's contention that he was paid by the Gray campaign.

The allegations have dominated the early weeks of the new mayor's administration. On Wednesday, Gray met with more than a dozen executives from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Federal City Council.

"Obviously, we're very concerned about recent events, and we wanted to give the mayor an opportunity to give his perspective on where do we go from here," said Chamber chief executive Barbara Lang, who supported Gray's campaign and served as co-chair of a transition committee.

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