Ahead of Campaign Announcement, Gray Disputes Fence Charges
UPDATED, 5:40 P.M.
Ahead of an imminent mayoral run, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray is moving to quell concerns about an unpermitted fence surrounding his Hillcrest home.
Jeffrey Anderson reported in the Washington Times earlier this month that the District Department of Transportation threatened to fine Gray $300 for the six-foot-high fence, which exceeds the 48-inch maximum allowed without special approval from DDOT.
On March 4, DDOT gave Gray a week to apply for a public space permit. On Friday, the agency posted another letter to Gray, indicating that he'd failed to do so: "To date, DDOT SIOD has not received a response from you regarding the subject possible violations. Consequently, beginning Monday, March 29, 2010, DDOT will begin issuing $300 daily fines."
But Gray says that he most certainly did apply for the requisite permit. (As to the larger issue of why he didn't get a permit in the first place: When news of the illicit fence was first broken by Anderson last December, Gray produced a letter from a Bowie, Md., contractor who said that he'd "assumed responsibility" for delivering a complete, legal fence.)
DDOT's Friday letter has been met with a response from Gray attorney Veronica Jennings of Schertler & Onorato: "Clearly, you have not communicated internally regarding the receipt of Mr. Gray’s materials," Jennings wrote on Saturday evening. "It is absolutely untrue that he has not responded to your letter of March 4, 2010. Rather, Mr. Gray has submitted to you all the documents that he was required to submit, as of March 11, 2010."
Jennings told DDOT that Gray would resend all the materials today; after that, she wrote, "we consider this matter resolved."
Still not resolved: A Office of Campaign Finance inquiry, launched in November, into other home repairs coordinated by William C. Smith & Co., a city contractor, as well as 2008 Democratic National Convention fundraising efforts. A report was to be issued within 90 days, but that deadline has come and gone.
To have the ethical matters lurking in the background would not serve the chairman well during a campaign. Back in December, he deemed the revelations "clearly political" during a TV appearance. Gray told LL last week that he expects to be fully cleared by OCF. Question is, when might that happen?
UPDATE, 5:40 P.M.: DDOT spokesperson John Lisle writes: '[W]e have not received a formal response to the March 4 letter and we do not have a record of any permit application in our system. If there was one on file, there should be a tracking number associated with it. However, because there seems to be some confusion about whether the documents were filed or not, we will not start assessing fines until we’re able to sort out exactly what happened. We would extend the same courtesy to any other applicant.'
Also, OCF's findings regarding Gray will be made public before April 9, a rep says.