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CITY GOVERNMENT

In a Close Vote, D.C. Council Confirms Nickles as Attorney General

D.C. Council members praised Peter Nickles, who was acting attorney general, as qualified but raised concerns about his management style and ties to the mayor.
D.C. Council members praised Peter Nickles, who was acting attorney general, as qualified but raised concerns about his management style and ties to the mayor. (Haraz N. Ghanbari - AP)
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By Hamil R. Harris and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The D.C. Council voted 7 to 5 yesterday to confirm acting Attorney General Peter Nickles, with Chairman Vincent C. Gray casting the deciding vote after telling his colleagues that he had stayed awake at night wrestling with the choice.

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The vote came a day after the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary voted 3 to 2 to disapprove Nickles's nomination, pointing to its report, which raised questions about Nickles's management style, his close ties to the mayor, and his judgment in major cases and on personnel issues.

During two hours of debate, council members described him as "rude," "irascible" and "aggressive." But the most important adjective was "qualified."

"The question that comes down to me: Is this man qualified to be attorney general? He is eminently qualified," Gray said.

The chairman's speech was measured as he weighed Nickles's pros and cons and talked about his sleepless nights. When Gray described Nickles as "eminently qualified," several people in the chambers packed up their belongings as if leaving a game that had just been clinched.

Gray was joined by members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), David A. Catania (I-At Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Voting against were Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5). Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) voted present.

The alignments threw out recognizable alliances. Gray's vote was contrary to his contentious relationship with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Nickles, a friend of the mayor's parents, has been a divisive figure since he entered the Fenty administration as general counsel in January 2007. Fenty appointed him acting attorney general after Linda Singer, who confidantes said was upset with Nickles's meddling in her office, resigned in December.

As acting attorney general Nickles has aggressively moved on issues, whether supporting police checkpoints in high-crime areas or working on a compromise with child welfare advocates to try to keep the city's embattled Child and Family Services Agency out of receivership.

Fenty (D) said in a statement that the administration was "extremely pleased" with the vote.

Later, outside his office, the mayor said: "I believe that the city council and the mayor have the same goal, and that is providing the best service to the residents of the District of Columbia. . . . [Nickles] will make some decisions that people will agree with and decisions that people will not agree with. He will make every decision that is best for the residents" of the city.

Nickles did not respond to calls seeking comment yesterday.


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