Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) wants the authority to issue subpoenas if necessary for a March 28 she is holding on the hiring practices of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration.
Cheh, chairman of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, said she does not “anticipate using it at this time,” but she said she wants the power to force potential witnesses to testify. Cheh’s committee has oversight of the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Department of Human Resources, which were involved in recent hirings, resignations and terminations that have drawn media attention.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is assessing and the Office of Campaign Finance and a Congressional committee are investigating allegations by fired employee and former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown that he was promised a job in the Gray (D) administration for bashing then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) on the campaign trail. Brown has also alleged that he received payments during the campaign from Lorraine Green, Gray’s campaign chairman, and Howard Brooks, a consultant on Gray’s campaign. They have denied the allegations, and The Washington Post did not independently verify payments.
Cheh said Brown, Green and Brooks, whose son was hired in the administration and later resigned, have been invited to testify. Also on the potential witness list: Reuben Charles, director of Gray’s transition; Judy Banks, interim director of human resources; Wayne Turnage, director of the Department of Health Care Finance; Talib Karim, former chief of staff to Turnage and Gerri Mason Hall, Gray’s former chief of staff who was fired last week. Cheh is also seeking representatives of the firms that vetted job candidates for Gray’s transition team and the administration.
Cheh said she sees no reason why her colleagues would not support her request for subpoena power. “It should be something that they agree with,” she said.
The committee has started reaching out to the witnesses, but Cheh said she does not know whether other inquiries could interfere with her hearing. She said witnesses could invoke their privileges against self-incrimination. In that case, “I will not call them to go through that charade,” she said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office could also ask her to delay the hearing, Cheh said. “There are a lot of variables here. I don’t know how this is going to shake out,” she said.