City Desk

Vincent Gray: So Far, So Good—But Far Still to Go

In early December, LL penned a column about D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's political standing, shortly after accusations of financial misdealings hit the papers.

Therein, LL pointed to the then-ongoing probe into council contracting and earmarking practices being conducted by superlawyer Robert S. Bennett as "another looming matter that could shake the chairman's standing in the public eye."

Well, the Bennett report is out, and thus far, the chairman's standing is solid. The investigation conducted by Bennett and his Big Law colleagues proved to be thoroughgoing, its conclusions incisive and its recommendations well-reasoned.

And Gray deserves kudos for how the release of the report was handled.

Neither the chairman nor any of his 12 colleagues were privy to Bennett's findings prior to Tuesday morning, when Bennett sat before the council dais with deputy investigator Amy Sabrin and proceeded to publicly detail Marion Barry's multitude of misdoings. And Bennett did nothing to soft-pedal his most damning finding: that Barry had handed a contract to girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, then demanded part of the proceeds in return—what amounts to a kickback. Bennett's report was also forthright about Barry's attempts to derail the investigation—by refusing to answer key questions and attempting to keep Watts-Brighthaupt from handing over critical evidence.

The whole thing made for great theater, with Bennett detailing his findings as Barry sat before him on the dais, leaning back in his chair.

Gray hasn't proven his stewardship of the city legislature just yet. That's going to depend on how he leads his institution's response to Barry. For one thing, the council will vote in the coming weeks to refer the Bennett findings to the new U.S. attorney, Ron Machen. And there will almost certainly be an attempt to censure Barry—an unprecedented council maneuver. Gray needs to make sure there are 12 votes for both those measures.

Beyond that, there is nothing in the council rules to allow the body to eject one of its members; the only way to oust Barry would be through an unlikely recall from the voters of Ward 8. (No public official here has even been recalled.) But Gray has other tools at his disposal. He could strip Barry of his chairmanship of the council's housing and workforce development committee, for one. And he could call on Barry to resign for the good of the council.

If Gray follows through, his mayoral hopes might still twinkle.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Skipper

    I'm betting Gray won't do anything.

  • IHeartDC

    The public will also want to have a full accounting for the rest of the $48 million in earmarks handed out by the City Council.

    Barry slipped up, badly, and was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. However, the Bennett report demonstrates that in the earmark system there is plenty of legal wiggle room for I'll-advised, inappropriate allocation of public funds.

    I hope that some reporter is busy working on a story revealing the details of all DC Council earmarks. That would be an interesting read.

  • Truth hurts

    LL, you often impress, yet sometimes whiff badly on major issues. Gray is no hero regarding Barry and earmarks. In fact, Bennett was highly critical of pork laden earmarks during Gray's watch. Where's Gray on getting 12 CM votes to abolish the kitty that Barry abused? Barry's an easy target here, but the fixes you suggest Gray implement don't qualify one to be mayor unless they go far beyond piling on Barry.

  • downtown rez

    Censure is, quite literally, the least Gray could do. But a bunch of useless toothless "regs" might just be enough icing to cover that shit-cake.
    This is DC, after all.

  • hymesb

    What does Mr. Gray do for you to get you to soft pedal him?

    So far so good? All he did was listen. What was he supposed to do? More like so far nothing. If it was fenty being accused...we would have a page full of qoutes from the fine chairman. He would have run right out of the room and straight to the US attorney.

    Sounds like we need to have a wider look at all of the earmarking done by the council.

    And, censure is a joke. This is Marion Barry. Do you think he gives a damn about a harsh letter? "Shame on you, Marion. You've been a bad boy."

    Also, Gray is NEVER going to ask Barry to step down.He is his biggest ally on the council. It would be political suicide.

    And, Barry probably has a map with the locations where Gray has buried his skeletons.

  • Rick Mangus

    Another CROOK who speaks like he has a brain in his head!

  • Truth hurts

    LL, I wrote #3 above before i read comments #1 and 2. And, just for the record, comments 4 and 5 were not posted by me. The message to you from some fairly savvy people is plain: enough with the Gray cheerleading. Pretend he doesn't return your calls, and stop kissing his butt.

  • Mike DeBonis

    Point of the post was, VCG did what he should have done so far and deserves credit for that. He could have released the report in a less public, less confrontational setting; he could have let it leak on a Friday. He didn't do that. But he still has to do more. And if he doesn't LL will be on his ass.

  • Truth hurts

    Fair enough. We'll be watching you my friend. Sorry for the kissing butt shot; just trying to get your attention.

  • Mike DeBonis

    This post was nothing but TH bait.

  • Anonymous

    "The public will also want to have a full accounting for the rest of the $48 million in earmarks handed out by the City Council."

    According to WaPo, the "candy" amounted to $143 million since 2005 for the WHOLE COUNCIL... this doesn't include all of the other grafty giveaways like public property, tax abatements, no-bid contracts, and other taxpayer-sponsored freebies for "friends of pols."

    Perfect timing--once again--to distract from the fact that we're already $200 mil over budget, that Fenty doesn't have a clue about anything but running marathons, and with rare exception, the council is just as clueless and irresponsible.

  • tired

    I hope that someone can put as much effort in getting Fenty ass as they have in getting Barry. Because he is doing far more harm to the city then Marion Barry has.

  • Mike DeBonis

    If anyone else was up to no good, they were a lot more careful than Barry was.

  • Taxi Cash

    Chuck Thies must be working (or angling to) for Vince Gray. Notice how since Thies became Jim "Taxi Cash" "AIDS Grift" Graham's new bagman LL has dropped the Loza story. What is happening with that plea deal anyhoo?

    Has this woman ever accounted for the loan she owed Marion?

  • Skipper

    Question for LL: Whatever happened to the investigation into Gray's fundraising letter for the Democratic Party? Or the investigation into his construction firm buddy doing that home repair work for a pittance? And did Gray ever pay any fines for doing construction work without any permits?

    Gray does deserve kudos for not trying to white-wash the report and releasing it in Council prime time. Unlike the very quiet release around the holidays of the Auditor's Report on Barry and his earmark shadiness.

  • Truth Hurts

    LL, I was going to let everything go until your ill advised "TH bait" comment. You praise Gray for NOT shredding the report, for NOT releasing it on a Friday afternoon, and for NOT taking a sneak peak at it. Terrific job, Gray. He didn't do something bad he would've surely been caught at.

    LL's worst sin, though, was asserting that Gray's "stewardship of the city's legislature" would be proven if he accomplished two things: 1) referring Barry to the US Attorney and 2) marshalling unanimous support for a city council censure of Barry. WRONG.

    The far more important test is whether he does anything to stop the $138 million in earmarks council members have steered to pet projects since 2005. That's in the latter part of Bennett's report. Keep reading, you'll come to it. Then ask Gray what he's doing to fix it. I'll stay tuned.

  • Truth Hurts

    @Skipper: Good questions. I'm sure LL's on it at this moment.

  • hymesb

    @Mike, Yes I am sure the city council man were more discrete than Barry. Gray doesn't take woman to the bank and make them cash checks. His kick-backs are home repairs done at ridiculous discount by unlicenced workers and without permits. De facto kick-backs. Much smarter...harder to prove...just as crooked.


    You don't have to worry about someone spending time investigating Fenty.
    Gray is a Fenty investigation Machine. Fire trucks, contracts, option contracts, Bike rides, jaywalking, press statements.

    You name it and Gray is there ready with an accusation and a supeona.

    That is why I am so amazed that this article praises him for releasing a report. Like it is the usual procedure to begin an investigation and then not release findings." KUDOS for Gray...He did what he was supposed to do." That is some potent manure!

    He is mute in his reaction to blatant corruption of his main supprter. At the same time, he jumps thru the roof with the slightest apprearance of indiscretion by the executive. And, THEN NEVER CALLS OFF THE INVESTIGATION. They just keep going an going. Digging around hoping to find something else to investigate.

    He is a grandstanding hypocrite. And this article was written with a clear bias towards him.

    I knew it was coming last week when Mike Debonis defended Gray to a blogger for being so communicative of the process before the release of the report.

    Amazingly, this article went further up his butt than I thought it would by actually proclaims his status as solid. And his mayoral hopes as "twinkling"

    Yes, a solidly twinkling hypocrite..

  • Mike DeBonis

    The OCF investigations into Gray fundraising, house work are still underway.

    No, TH, he will prove his stewardship if he expresses in strong terms that Barry is an embarrassment to the institution and the city, strips him of whatever responsibilities he can, and calls on Barry to resign. As for the earmarks, Gray said before the report was announced that he's planning to put more rails on the earmark process. Question is, does it stop there or does he support complete abolishment of earmarking?

  • Truth Hurts

    What's the "No, TH" mean? That I misquoted your blog? No. That your blog connected Gray's "plans" re earmarks to validating his council stewardship? It didn't. And that's my point. Addressing what I wrote is good, but it sounds like you're now agreeing with me. So what's up with the "No, TH" lead in?

  • Rick Mangus

    'Catfish Row', folks, 'Catfish Row', that is what this city has become, how pathetic!

  • Downtown rez

    "...he will prove his stewardship if he expresses in strong terms that Barry is an embarrassment to the institution and the city, strips him of whatever responsibilities he can, and calls on Barry to resign."

    Right. You'll pardon me if I don't hold my breath?

  • Mike DeBonis

    You're pardoned DR.

  • LOL

    Monday was a bit of a surprise to all of us. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

    My best bet is that people implicated in the report will start making plea deals and give up information. [Remember they got to him before using Rasheeda Moore]. These poverty pimps may do a lot of things, but I don't see them doing no jail time for Barry.

    There is another part to consider. Barry may have to leave the council even if he isn't censured or the case isn't turned over to the US Attorney.

    If someone is on probation for tax evasion and doesn't report ALL income to the IRS, they may end up in jail. Tax issues have taken down many an "untouchable."

    Don't let that poker face fool you. I don't think Gray can have blood on his hands for killing Barry politically. But I think that when it is all said and done, they both know that politics is survival of the fittest. If he goes down and Gray comes out looking controlled and calm, the council may be in a stronger position and potentially a bigger threat to the mayor.

    Different question. What do you all think will happen if the deposition transcripts become public? Bowser asked for them.

  • Long Time Rez

    "Monday was a bit of a surprise to all of us."

    Really???? Time to read "Dream City" ...

  • Truth Hurts

    See Robert McCartney's column in today's WAPO. "But it's even more important to reform or scrap the system of earmarks, appropriations given for a specific purpose at the behest of individual D.C. Council members or the mayor's office. Much more money is at stake.... Earmark grants create 'substantial opportunities for waste and abuse". Amen.

  • Typical DC BS

    Now if we could only get the Washington Post (and each US Representative's / Senator's local newspapers) to start listing the United States Congress earmarks consistently (say quarterly?), we may stir up some muck with the rest of the country.

  • iseeitcoming

    Ooh, it's getting so nasty!!! Whatever will Vince do? He has the dilemma of "damned if he does, damned if he doesnt." I can see him censuring Marion and stripping him of committee chairmanship then praying incessantly that this whole mess quickly goes away. On the other hand, if he bows to pressure by the other council members who want Marion prosecuted, he might as well, shoot himself at point blank range in the head, as his political career is over, done, completed. It will be nearly impossible to find a jury of Marion's peers to convict him of anything. Even if the attorneys attempt to stack the jury with residents living in DC five years or less, his supporters and others will have an uprising that will jolt Bull Connor in his grave. Vince will no doubt lose the black vote which he desperately needs, especially since the folk in Ward 7 already feel he has abandoned them and they have not forgiven him for firing Lee Wilson, a trusted and devoted supporter of Grays who tried to advise him to not turn his back on Ward 7, his homebase. This alone almost assures a second Fenty term unless of course, folk have the memory of an elephant and remember with acuity, his arrogance, mismanagement, cronyism, incompetence, Peter Nickles, Michelle Rhee, Victor Reinoso, the RIFs, the day care centers and school closings, rumored wife beatings, traffic accident, taxi meters, abused of city resources for bike outings, or the emergency ill-preparedness during the 2010 blizzard. My, my, my, my, oh my, whatever will Vincey do? He's caught between a mountain sized pile of cow manure and a valley wasteland of deep do-do.

  • Truth Hurts

    LL, one week ago (see comment 19), you defended your "one city" love blog by listing about 5 things one city needed to do to prove his stewardship of the council. By my count, he's 0 for 5 as of today. Isn't he returning your follow up calls?