Loose Lips

It’s Not Easy Being Green: Meet Lorraine Green, Vince Gray’s Closest Friend

Lorraine Green, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray's Closest Friend

In the early ’90s, Lorraine Green and Vince Gray would work late into the night at a District government building, eat bad take out, and hash out personnel decisions. Two decades later, they’re doing the exact same thing.

“Not much has changed in that regard. has it?” jokes Gray.

Green is the first person the next mayor says he turns to for advice. But not much ink has been spilled on the Amtrak executive, who has spent her nights and weekends for the last several months working (for free) as chairwoman of Gray’s campaign and transition.

A self-described local politics junkie who watches D.C. Council hearing reruns after work, Green’s got a hefty résumé. She ran the city’s Office of Personnel during the first half of Sharon Pratt’s mayoral administration, before being lured to a similar gig in the Clinton administration. She also served on the 2000 U.S. Census Monitoring Board.

Gray’s former campaign manager Adam Rubinson describes Green as a trusted adviser during the campaign, who made sure those working for Gray “stayed inside their swim lanes.”

Her most important role in Gray’s victory, though, may have been setting up a meeting between Gray and another of her longtime friends, developer Don Peebles. Peebles seemed to want to beat Still Mayor Adrian Fenty out of pure spite and made plenty of noise about entering the race. Green says she didn’t want to see her two friends split the vote, so she got them together to talk about who was going to challenge Fenty, and who was going to sit out. (It’s not hard to tell who won that discussion.)

With a long career in the political sphere, Green’s got some baggage. Congressional Republicans were unhappy she was briefly named Amtrak’s interim inspector general last year, after the old IG was forced to retire, allegedly because he uncovered waste and fraud at the railroad. That appointment led conservative bomb-thrower Michelle Malkin to label Green as Amtrak’s “lapdog” rather than a true watchdog. Green brushes off her GOP critics’ complaints as ill-informed political rhetoric.

Much closer to home, though, there’s been recent grumblings from anonymous Gray supporters who feel that Green is running roughshod over their feelings and ambitions.

The political newsletter D.C. Watch published an anonymous letter Monday morning from a Gray supporter, saying Green has “egregiously” mistreated volunteers for the transition, particularly from the poorer parts of the city. The letter also falsely asserted that Green’s daughter landed a plum six-figure job in the District’s school system shortly after the election.

The same supporter sent the same letter to LL, but with an add-on: The Dr. Seuss song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”—rewritten to attack Green. A sample lyric: “You’re a foul one Lorraine Green/Your attitude toward Gray Supporters is as nasty as a skunk/ Your head is full of mean girl antics/Your fake One City mind is full of very divisive mechanics.”

***

Histronics, even Seussian ones, are unlikely to deter Gray from continuing to give great weight to Green’s advice. His pick as chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, is a protégé of Green’s who worked with her both in city government and at Amtrak.

Green says she’s happy serving as Amtrak’s vice president of human resources, minority initiatives and labor administration (she once tried to lure Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi to work for the rail company) and has no interest in working for Gray. But she still has a hand in shaping the city’s future. “I think you could say her influence is there, probably in a lot of ways,” says Gray.

LL presumed that as Gray’s closest friend, Green would have a slew of mildly embarrassing anecdotes about the next mayor to share. But LL presumed wrong—miserably wrong. The only dirt Green dished in an hour-long conversation: Gray, a noted movie lover, never returned a DVD copy of Crash she lent him.

Don’t blame LL, though. The reason Green didn’t tell stories about Gray hand-dancing on top of a table with a lampshade on his head, or streaking the GW campus as an undergrad, is because Green doesn’t have those kind of stories.

The core of their friendship is work. They have plenty in common: they were both born and raised in the District, both proud products of D.C. public schools (he Dunbar, she McKinley Tech), and both lost a spouse to cancer. But their real bond is that they regularly log 14-hour days and need only about 5 hours of sleep. Any socialization between the two outside of work is “episodic,” Gray says. “That’s the way it’s always been.”

The pair met 20 years ago, at the beginning of Pratt’s lone term. Green had been brought on board (via then-transition director Vernon Jordan, who would later famously be asked to find a job for a certain intern named Monica Lewinsky) to run the city’s old Office of Personnel and fulfill Pratt’s campaign promise of clearing out middle managers from the city’s payrolls.

Many of those layoffs came from Gray’s department, human services, one of the government’s largest employers. The first time Green met Gray, she says, was when she went to his old office and told him she was going to be cutting his staff. Gray insisted that he personally play a role in the cuts, Green says, but with one catch: He was so busy running the agency during the day that he would have to meet with her at night, after the normal workday was over.

“It’s like, ‘Really? Cause the rest of [the agency heads] are ready to go home at that time,’” Green says she responded.

But she was game, and she would meet with Gray and his team as his office after hours as they tried to sort through the hopelessly backwards personnel filing system (which in some cases consisted of nothing more than index cards) they’d inherited from former Mayor Marion Barry’s administration.

It soon became apparent to Green, she says, that Gray stood “head and shoulders” above the other agency heads for his attention to details, and was a like soul when it came to working methodically and deliberately.

Green says she remembers thinking: “Gee, he’s a lot like me. …I have this way about me too that I’ve got to get it right. I just can’t get it wrong—there’s just too much at stake.”

While they both worked for Pratt, though, Green says she and Gray weren’t really friends. That designation didn’t start until after Gray had left District government to run Washington Covenant House, a nonprofit that serves troubled and homeless youth. (Meanwhile, Green went to work for the federal government as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management. There, too, she was tasked with trimming the public payroll.)

Gray invited Green to join Covenant’s board of directors and it was there, she says, that she began considering Gray a friend. Green says Gray had a special connection with the kids and seemed like a natural fit as the executive director.

But politics beckoned. When Gray told Covenant’s board of directors he was going to challenge former Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous in the 2004 election, Green says, the board did not want to see Gray go. Instead, they offered him a deal: A bigger salary and the board’s permission to work both as the executive director and a councilmember.

“He didn’t even think about it,” Green says of the board’s offer. The whole reason Gray ran, Green says, was he thought Ward 7’s interests were being neglected on the council, and he wanted his home ward to have a full-time representative.

It was then, Green says, that she really came to admire Gray, who turned away both a raise and the potential to supplement his income with the well-paid council gig.

“I’m telling you that I respected him a lot up until then, but it was at that moment when he told the board that that I was overwhelmed. I was like, ‘How many people would do that?’” says Green. “That was a defining moment for me.”

***

Green may be an unpaid, informal adviser, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to stay on message. Midway through a chat with LL, she brings up criticism of her friend so she can try to do some damage control.

Gray’s been knocked around a bit by a few councilmembers, members of Fenty’s administration, and some other grumblers about the pace of his transition. “Gray’s slow-to-start transition is reigniting fears about his career-long cautious decision-making style and raising concerns that he won’t be fully prepared to take over from incumbent Adrian M. Fenty (D) on Jan. 2,” The Washington Post wrote during the last week of November.

Green says she gets very “irritated” when she hears those complaints. “We’ll take our time to get it right, that’s kind of our motto,” Green says, adding: “Since when does being deliberative become a liability? I would say that it’s thoughtful consideration, that’s what I would say.”

Spinning for Gray comes naturally for Green after so many years working with him—and for him. She volunteered for Gray’s first D.C. Council race, and then served as campaign chairwoman when Gray ran for council chairman in 2006. But Green didn’t plan to get involved in a mayoral campaign this year. When Gray told her he was thinking of running for mayor, she advised against it. Her rationale: Fenty had already raised a boatload and Gray seemed happy as council chairman.

“As far as I’m concerned, he was born for that job,” says Green, echoing a concern Gray’s critics voiced during the campaign and foretelling criticism Gray will likely face when his administration hits rough patches (and they all do, dear readers, they all do).

“Now he may prove me wrong and show me that he was born to be mayor… I don’t mind being wrong, at all.”

Got a tip for LL? Send suggestions to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. Or call (202) 650-6951.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Sally

    Did LL ask how Ms. Green made Dawn Slonenger disappear from Gray's office?

  • theworst

    Dawn made Dawn disappear when she got mad at having to share him with the rest of the city. Good riddance!

  • DC observer

    LL, you forgot to mention how Gray held up the lottery contract for Leonard Manning. Then when Gray himself realized that Manning was ripping off the city, Green put together a team to get the contract. Gray unsuccessfully tried to steer it to Green's team.

    You write for the City Paper. Man up and stop writing with your pro-Gray slant. You stepped further rather than closer to a Pulitzer with this propaganda piece.

  • tired

    Ms.Green pay close attention we the citizens put Gray in and expect transparency not hiding behind you. Be careful with your assumption that we are going to take anything he and the so call council throws out I campaign for him and paid my hard earn money towards it as well he has so far attack the very people who put him in office reducing people's TANF, what is next? I feel like this is Fenty part 2 and to keep a majority of Fenty's staff what the hell is wrong with you elected officials. A Rushern Baker he is not. He cleaned house please do the same especially with Public Safety. You will be working for us not the other way around.

  • WARD4NDC

    Read a comment posted in the DC watch newsletter about Lorraine Green.

    http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2010/10-12-12.htm

  • Wassup

    “We’ll take our time to get it right, that’s kind of our motto,”

    Well, thats good news! That has to mean there is no truth that Ms. Green is behind the rumored return of 20 years of do nothing Crystal Palmer to the Office of Motion Pictures and Television. Or maybe Ms. Green doesn't get the fact that there is a real job to done in that office and it not about Palmer swanning about and giving her girlfriends accewss to Holly wood nabobs.

    What with Ms. Green from the Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly days, Kwame's dim wit and ongoing credit problems, Harry Jr.s dubious funding streams, etc., etc., etc. I am half expecting Mr. Gray to announce that they are petitioning Congress to re-establish the unfunded federal pension liability.

    If Palmer gets that job back it means we are in big trouble folks, we are marching backwards!

  • dbrighthaupt

    I admired Ms. Dawns personality. I perceived she and Gray to be professionally joined at the hip. Sorry to hear of her departure.

    Marion has a handful of genuine, dynamic, awesome folks whom he considers the rare jewel of a friend. Months before I was introduced to Ms. Green, he'd mention her at least weekly, "You've got to meet Linda Green".

    Even Gray stared at me upon first glance in agreement. Finally, I had the honor of meeting Linda Green at an holiday gathering strategizing a serious game of Cards.

    The masses are correct, she is short, to the point and in my two meets, I'd concluded that to know her~ is to make yourself understand her~ then maybe like her.

    Immediately, I liked her (regardless of what she thinks of me today).

    I know nothing of her political business. And of course could care less of her handling of Gray's campaign.

    In any arena, she is that blunt, shoot from the hip, smart azz, administrator /huh, I could imagine Gray supporters couldn't take from Fenty and won't like from Lew, but I wholeheartedly could appreciate.

    Confronted w/ those types are a welcomed character-building challenge.

    One other thing whiners, Marion briefly shared her career history. It is awe inspiring where ones skin will thicken taken the path she's taken to get where she is.

    So to you all who are a bit disgruntled and disappointed at, frankly what I knew and said would happen to you months earlier:

    - Observe the circumstances
    - Journal often and demand fair press/media attention
    - Gather yourselves collectively
    - Study the causal history of The French Revelution - no really
    - Organize and play Political Chess.

    Hell, the game hasn't officially begun.

    Shucks, for real Ms. Green is but one woman who isn't even in the game :)

  • Just Curious

    The bigger question for LL to explore is the role of Lorraine Green in the ongoing lottery saga...

    I'm told that she and other Gray cronies had a financial interest in the previous contract (Leonard Manning/LTE) and may have a silent interest in the new contract (Emmanuel Bailey/VSC). This, in addition to those troubling financial disclosure forms, is why she refused to take a role in the Gray administration. By forcing Dawn out and installing her protege, Green gets to have her cake and eat it too.

    LL, don't you think that it is interesting that the CFO bent over (backwards and otherwise) to appease Green, especially after she engineered two employment offers for him with Amtrak, the second which allowed him to extort a pay raise from the City. Thank God the tax scandal occurred and Congress blocked it.

    LL, clearly something is rotten. Hope you are enterprising and courageous enough to ferret it out. Anyone agree?

  • Truth Hurts

    While I know (or know much about) most D.C. politicians (and their operatives), I hadn't paid attention to Lorraine Green's background. Thanks for the summary, LL.

    Some observations: 1) The fact that Peebles is her close friend is cause for concern. The more I've come to know him, the more I dislike him. (And he has, of course, been sued by D.C. for lots of dough).

    2) As Gray's closest friend/advisor, she must've known/approved of Charles as the pick to run Gray's transition team. His background is troubling, and she either didn't check it or didn't care about it.

    3) Sally's question about Dawn (comment 1) is valid. Do you know what, if any, role Green had in the Dawn mystery? Or even where Dawn is? Many Gray supporters seem to like her, so what happened?

  • Hmm…

    Why does this chatter not surprise me? I'm sticking to my prediction. By May, Gray supporters will understand the truth about Vincent Gray. Whether he is a good person or not, he surrounds himself with people that do not have the city's better interest in mind. He doesn’t know how to tell them no and they will guide the direction of this city. As more things come out about Ms. Green, the lottery contract, the consulting company tied to Allen Lew, Rubin Charles, Gerri Hall’s continued ties to Sodexo(Let’s see what contract they get next), and other Gray donors, the city will see the alleged corruption under Fenty won’t hold a candle to these criminals. They know they have four years to cash in so it’ll be interest to say the least. Get your popcorn ready!

  • junkyard

    Vince Gray was elected so he can clean house. People hated Adrian because he put a lot of nasty people in positions of power. People like Robin Eve Jasper and her so called deputies need to go, perhaps jail. Ms. Green, Robin Eve is gone. The deputies must follow !

  • Indeed

    @Hmm

    I'd love to hear what these corrupt activities are. Less insinuation more facts, please.

  • tired

    Hmm so are you saying he has no balls. He can't say no well he'd better man up. Because I can't state it enough that I didn't vote for Ms. Green, she was not on the ballot. I will have my popcorn and my picket sign. When Nickles and Fenty punked him when he was chairman I should have paid close attention. As for just curious if she is dirty and Gray has knowledge then he deserves to share a cell with Fenty.

  • Truth Hurts

    @ Hmm

    Similar concerns about certain self-interested people Gray surrounds himself with are shared by many close observers. A number of journalists (from a variety of media outlets) have privately expressed their fears about Gray's poor staff/personnel judgments.

    Personally, I hope you're wrong -- but I think you're right.

  • drez

    I guess I'm out of the loop.
    All I have to say is I really hope the photo with the caption captured her on a singularly bad hair day.

  • Hypocrite Much?

    @drez...that look is everyday! Looks like she stuck her finger in a wall socket and that dead cat on her head is the result.

  • DCDem

    That hair-do appears to be the style these days. I see it daily on the Metro, among the young and old.

    Reminds me of Patti Labelle.

  • faineant

    Suderman, don't be so naive. Do you actually think she was working for free when she just plugged her daughter into a six-figure job soon after the general election. Geez, use logic.

  • faineant

    And @dbrighthaupt -- STOP KISSING BEHIND! Do you think short, mean, Green will read your post and offer you a job for kissing her tail. Gain some self respect and stop using Marion's name in everything. Nobody cares about the aged dude or the rest of the aged crew! It's a shame that you continue to flaunt an old man's name to try to get somewhere. How old and desparate are you?

  • Hypocrite Much?

    dbrighthaupt, please get a clue or buy a vowel. We are talking about Lorraine Green NOT Linda Mercado Greene who Gray is dating. Don't get these two women confused.

    Linda Greene is polishing off Gray and Lorraine Green is polishing off the coffers of the Districts funds.

    Story reported in the Washington Post:

    Mayor-elect Vincent Gray is a busy man. Along with tapping local and national professionals to fill his cabinet, he’s also planning to take office on Jan. 2. Yet, the good-looking mayor-to-be is also taking time to date.
    Word has it, Gray is dating Linda Mercado Greene, Marion Barry‘s former Chief of Staff and campaign manager. Greene is currently the President and CEO of her public relations firm, The Linda Greene Group.
    According to her LinkedIn profile, her firm specializes in governmental affairs, public strategies and communications as well as political and special event fundraising.
    The two were seen being flirty at a D.C. Council meeting last night. WUSA9 reporter Bruce Johnson confirmed it in a tweet.

  • Truth Hurts

    HM? -- Did Nikita pen that WaPo piece?

  • pmc

    Ms Lorraine Green should have spent more time doing her job at Amtrak. All she did was protect the white racist managers at Amtrak.

...