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."