City Desk

City Lawyers Ejected From Fishy Fire Truck Depositions

Wee bit of Friday drama down at the John A. Wilson Building.

Today, three players in the fishy fire truck scandal—Deputy Fire Chief Ronald Gill, Robin Booth of the Office of Property Management Contracting and Procurement, and Peaceoholics chief Ronald Moten—are scheduled to give private testimony in a D.C. Council probe being jointly led by Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Phil Mendelson. Leading up to today's depositions, there had been much posturing in both side over whether the city would allow the witnesses to testify; pro bono counsel from top law firm was found to represent Booth and Gill.

This morning, other lawyers showed up, too—two from the Office of the Attorney General. Cheh and Mendelson were not happy to see them, and an hour-and-a-half long standoff ensued. At one point, the councilmembers threatened to call security to have the city lawyers removed.

This account comes from D.C. Watch doyenne Dorothy Brizill, who has been standing outside the first-floor meeting room since the drama began this morning.

The lawyers eventually left, says Attorney General Peter Nickles, in order to avoid "some unnecessary conflagration." That was for Gill's interview; now, with Booth's turn coming, the lawyers are back.

Cheh and Mendelson's position is that the District government was not subpoenaed and is not involved in the deposition, and thus has no reason to attend. Cheh also tells LL that OAG participation could have a "chilling effect" on the answers.

Says Nickles of Gill, "This is a government employee, not a private employee," and thus the District has an interest in being present for questioning.

"If we can't get it straightened up, then we will go to court," he says.

UPDATE, 5:25 P.M.: The plot thickens. Moten showed up for his deposition shortly after 4 p.m., as scheduled. Apparently under the impression that it was an open hearing, he brought with him an entourage of dozens and dozens—at leats 75, he estimates.

Told that he'd have to wait because things were running overtime due to the legal wrangling detailed above, Moten refused to be deposed and left the building.

LL reached Moten this evening: "First of all, I'm offended that I was called down there on Friday on a 4, and then you tell me its 4:30 then it's 5...and then 5:30. Who does that?"

Secondly: "Why is it closed to the public?...When you take me into a closed hearing, the public thinks that I did something wrong. We've done nothing wrong. I want everything I say out there for the public to hear."

Thirdly, Moten points out that both the inspector general and the council are engaged in separate investigations. "Where do they do that at? Show me where that's been done in D.C.!...To me, it's turned into a political circus."

Still, Moten says, "I have a lot of respect for Councilmember Rhee [sic]. We'll reschedule."

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  • Q

    Nickels is right...felt icky to say that, but both Gill and Booth were operating as DC Employees when this incident occurred and as such should be afforded counsel. Where he and the Council messed up is treating Gill and Booth as "private citizens" who were subpeonaed. Everybody knows that the Council is investigating impropriates with the Executive Branch and DC Govt over the firetruck. Calling these folks up for a "chat" with the Council behind the back of their superiors seems courageous, but they should've expected some resistance from the AG.

  • DC Res

    Q, once again, you are totally wrong. Gill and Booth already had legal counsel present. Dud.. The OAG was there to protect Fenty and intimidate witnesses. When the Executive Branch decides to testify Nickles can then send his flunkies to the rescue. The OAG is party to the crime / cover-up. WHY/HOW is the OAG representing anyone involved with this scandal.

  • fedupcitizen

    Is Moten serious did he call Rhee a councilmember?? That is it he and Fenty have been smoking something!!!

  • Wrack

    Also, Q, you make up words.

  • Q

    I figured I'd be attacked because I supported Nickels. Apparently, you all missed my point. Of course he had counsel. Are you saying that Gill and Booth weren't privy to the "extra" counsel? I'm not convinced that Nickels sent them there on a whim without Gill and Booth knowing. My point was that Nickels (albeit the intimidation factor was there) was right by sending lawyers there as these "private citizens" were going to be questioned based on fufilling DC duties. It sucks, and implies a cover up but it is within his rights. As this is not an IG investigation, the AG's lawyers didn't have to recuse themselves. But one wonders what authority the Council has besides coming to a legislative conclusion after this investigation is conducted. They can't invoke sanctions or any other penalties. Their attempt is basically the appearance of an unbiased investigation. My guess is that Gill and Booth were probably coached by the AG anyways.

    As far as Moton having to wait...why is he surprised. Political Circus indeed, and Moton is one of the acts.

  • DC Res

    Ok Q, you've redeemed yourself.... Great reply.

  • candycane1

    It does sound like Moten was on something. That probably was the best time to get him to testify. He runs his mouth so much they probably would have gotten things out of him that didn't have anything to do with the truck.

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