Loose Lips

Vince Gray: Yes, It’s All About Nickles

Hey, what's this about electing an attorney general?

One of the sleeper stories of this election cycle has been that the 4 or 5 dozen voters who actually vote in the general election could decide if the District moves from having an appointed attorney general or an elected one.

The current but soon to be former attorney general, Peter Nickles, said on Newstalk with Bruce DePuyt this morning that it's a bad idea for three reasons.

Number one: an elected A.G.'s office will attract politicians who are looking to move up to the mayor's office, and will be guiding by doing what's politically expedient rather than what's right. Number two: an elected A.G.'s office will be costly, as the mayor will then need his own independent set of lawyers. “Number 3, we’ll skip because we don’t have enough time," Nickles told DePuyt. (LL has a call in to Nickles, and will update if he calls back with reason No. 3.)

Nickles also said that "it may very well have been" that the Council approved the proposal to elect an A.G. solely because of him. A fiery Nickles (is there any other kind?) said he'd gone after slum lords, shady used car salesmen, and other ne'er-do-wells, pissing off "the forces, the vested interests," who are pushing the elected A.G proposal.

Councilmember Phil Mendelson says he introduced the proposal before Nickles was even nominated because it's a good idea on its own. But, he adds, "one could say the council is willing to go there" because of their low opinion of Nickles.

In fact, in this post-electoral season of political happy talk—see yesterday's stage-managed cordiality at the Michelle Rhee resignation event—Nickles remains the great polarizer of D.C. politics. Not that some folks aren't trying to change the subject. After today's Democratic Party unity event, LL found himself chatting with D.C. Democratic State Committee Executive Director David Meadows, who was arguing that the elected-A.G. proposal wasn't just about Nickles.

Then Almost Mayor Vince Gray walked by. When Meadows sought some back up from Gray, a laughing Gray gave this answer instead: "Yes it is the one person, who is in there now."

  • Isn’t It Obvious

    Prick or Peter (means the same thing) Nickles is wrong on all points. Lest he forget, before replacing the previous AG, he served as the special counsel to the Mayor. The Mayor of DC already has counsel assigned to look after the interest of the Mayor's office and to advise the Mayor. The AG is supposed to be looking after the interest of the CITY and representing the residents of the CITY, NOT the Mayor. This is where Nickles made himself public enemy # 1, 2 or 3 depending on you ask (only to Fenty and Rhee). He thought it was his job as AG to protect the interest of the Mayor; and the CITY be damned. He allowed unlawfulness whenever the Mayor or any of his cronies were involved. He was completely DERELICT in his duties as AG.

    By having an elected AG, as is the case in most states, (DC is constantly seeking statehood), the AG is held accountable by either being re-elected or terminated by the voters. For sure, if the AG position were an elected office, Nickles would have been terminated by the voters a long time ago; and we would not have had to suffer through most of the Omar, Skinner, and other pilfering of city revenue by Fenty frat brothers that occurred for so long without any legal intervention on behalf of city residents.

    All in all, this is and should be a good thing - to have an elected AG.

  • tired

    I am for electing the AG. Nickels was never our attorney he was Fenty's, Lanier and Rhee.This is about you.

  • Brahmin

    I was for an elected AG before Nickles. Even when they thought Catania would go for it. But he, I must said was like a can of gas on a fire to get that fire going on having it be an elected position.

  • Sunni1

    UNCLE FESTER IS A LOSER. His loser reasons for not having an elected AG are absolute nonsense.

  • Truth Hurts

    Reason number one is an accurate prediction of what will happen with elected AGs. Whether it's good or bad to have AG's jockeying for mayoral runs depends on one's point of view.

  • Kathy

    So, what's wrong with an elected attorney general later deciding to run for mayor? If someone is a GOOD attorney general, why not later run for mayor?

    That's the American Way, folks.

  • http://deleted TripLBee

    When the AG thinks he's the mayor's consigliere, the idea of an elected AG is appealing.

  • Joseph Martin

    When you live in states, you elect Attorneys General.

    Cities have a Corporation Counsel - which is what DC's AG used to be. Can we have both?

    Parking meter increases already done can pay for their salaries or we can have smaller salaries for Bullpen staff or fewer people with "Director" titles = $avings.

    Heck, Mayor Bloomberg can help pay for this. He was a Dem before 9/11.

    (Love having a NYC Mayor with a wicked Boston accent.)

  • What’s Next

    You have to think of this legislation long term and how it will effect local politics. The AG will have to fund raise and get supporters to run in an election which will put that person beholding to special interests that supported his or her campaign. I would rather see the AG appointed. We don't need another individual more concerned about their next election and who put them in office than doing what is best for DC. You may like or dislike Nickles but if passed this legislation will extend way past his appointment.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    I love that Gray is very honest about this issue. Nickles has made it abundantly clear that an appointed AG for DC just does not work. I would prefer someone who isn't as closely tied to the Mayor, so that a repeat of Fenty/Nickles will never happen again. I'm a dreamer though.

  • Kathy

    Not everyone who runs for public office can be bought by campaign contributions. If that were the case, I guess we just need to chuck the whole U.S. governmental system, right? That would make all of our elected leaders corrupt.

    I think that's a very pessimistic and self-defeating view of our democratic (with a lowercase "d") system.

  • Korrupt

    Once again I'll have Nickles on my mind when I go into the election booth on November 2.

  • downtown rez

    I have to agree with Nickles.
    One elects a mayor to administer the law. Whoever that mayor is, they should be entitled to pick their own team to do so. The public shouldn't want a mayor who points their finger at this agency head, or that school chancellor, or at any other entity for why the public isn't being served. But decentralizing administrative power by moving a portion of enforcement authority out from under EOM control will allow for just that.
    Elections should be about accountability, not excuses.

  • Tom

    @Downtown rez,

    Thats the problem, the AG should not be on the Mayor's team, he/she should be on the citizens of the District of Columbia's team. Do you honestly believe that if the city had to investigate the Mayor's office Nickles would be impartial and go after the mayor like he does special education lawyers? We elect public officials so that we ca nhold them responsible, no one can hold Nickles accountable except the mayor and thats a problem

  • SEis4ME

    LOL@DRez, well of course you would agree with Knickles. He disagrees with Gray. That's a no-brainer.

    Does your Mayor in MoCo pick his/her own AG like you are suggesting here? Does O'Malley get to pick his?

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Drez- again you astound me with your level of complete detachment from the average DC taxpayer. Nickles enabled Fenty to do every shady thing that he did. Without him, Fenty might have been forced to be more transparent. But when you have a legal pit-bull working for your best interest and not the City's, you're free to do as you please. Nickles is the reason why charges against Fenty and his buddies have not arisen yet. He's blocked every attempt by others to find out where money was routed and for what purpose. A typical citizen might be concerned with this, but not you- our own mulattoed (none of us believe you though), rags to riches (none of us believe you though) friend.

  • downtown rez

    @ Tom
    And the citizens of the District of Columbia elect the Mayor. And Nickles is one reason people cite for voting against Fenty.
    So, in the end, there is still accountability with the current mayor-proposes council-confirms system. And it comes with much less politicking and much more efficiency.
    That's my opinion, anyway.
    I have been a DC resident for 20 years. I've never been a MD resident. I feel like you must think you know who I am but, if you think I live in MoCo, I assure you that you do not.

  • 1intheKnow

    As other posters have noted, there are distinct pros and cons regarding this issue - in the abstract. Unfortunately, the egregious malfeasance of AG Peter "Wooden" Nickles has colored the issue so deeply that a vote in direct reaction to his tenure is more than likely.

    Nickles is nothing if not arrogant and self-aggrandizing. (In fact, Fenty's behavior as Mayor may well have been grossly influenced by, if not modeled on, that of his godfather and professional mentor.) Nickles would probably like nothing better than to be remembered for posterity. So if the voters do indeed opt for the law requiring elected AGs, I hope it becomes known as the "Nickles Law"; it would be a fitting "tribute" for the name of Peter Nickles to become synonymous with the ruination of a public position of trust.

  • noodlez



  • gwaffair

    per Brahmin - This has been around for 10 years and was first championed by Catania, who secured voter approval. Congress/Eleanor ultimately refused to act on the Charter amendment.