Loose Lips Daily: Graham in The Hot Seat Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Do You Know These People? It's Official: HTJ Out as Chairman of Economic Development Committee So Long, Sulaimon Did Jim Graham Break City Rules By Not Reporting Ted Loza?
Good morning sweet readers! It's Thursday, which means Washington City Paper's army of unpaid interns have been up all night working the printing press. This week's edition is all about food. Yum. Be sure and check out the paper's list of the 44 most powerful restaurants in the District. For his column this week, LL says goodbye to ol' Sulaimon Brown. LL thinks the apex of Brown's popularity was Monday, when he stared down a hostile D.C. Council behind designer sunglasses. Wishful thinking? News time:
Jim Graham, It's Your Turn In the Hot Seat: Come now, let's turn our focus towards Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, who has a lively tale in on the front of today's Post about how the FBI tried to catch him ridin' dirty. "D.C. Council member Jim Graham sat in his office, an envelope stuffed with $2,600 in his hands. He had just been given the cash by a trusted aide, who said it came from a businessman. After a minute or so, Graham said, he shut the flap, secured it with tape, and initialed and dated the envelope. As he handed it back on that July afternoon in 2009, Graham (D-Ward 1) told his chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, to return it immediately." The money was from the FBI by way of Abdul Kamus, who was trying to help a group of Ethiopian cabbies get a corner on the taxi market. Kamus had been popped by the feds and agreed to work undercover. Graham says the FBI also bugged his phone and had an undercover agent offer to fly him to Miami to talk about business opportunities in Ward 1. But it appears Graham was on to the feds for some time. "At his 63rd birthday party in 2008, Graham said, he accepted a colorful portrait of himself as a gift from the Ethiopian community. He said he later learned that the FBI had paid for it. Tempted to report the painting on disclosure statements as an 'unsolicited gift' from the FBI, Graham said he thought better of it. 'I was advised not to antagonize them further,” said Graham, who keeps the portrait in a closet.'" LL asked yesterday if Graham broke city rules by not reporting Loza, which Graham says he now wishes he had done. (Graham didn't call LL back, though he did seem to return calls from 15th and L streets NW.) The Post has legal experts saying Graham did not appear to be in trouble for breaking council rules, but the legal eagles LL heard from said otherwise. At a minimum, it seems to LL, there ought to be at least some kind of inquiry from some kind District government employee into Graham's conduct. Also, the Post editorial board weighs in, asking what it says about Graham's judgment that he didn't report Loza and kept him on staff. "Considering the way things are going at the John A. Wilson Building — with an administration under the cloud of allegations from former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown and council member Harry Thomas accused of taking hundreds of thousands of public dollars for personal use — maybe we should be happy that Mr. Graham was honest enough not to keep that envelope. But that strikes us as a pretty low standard." One last question: why did it take evidence at Loza's sentencing trial for Graham to come clean on the attempted payoff? Loza was arrested more than a year and a half ago.
AFTER THE JUMP: HTJ off econ dev; Gray rebuts Sulaimon; Alexander Shouts Down Crime...
HTJ Is Off Econ Dev and On Fox: As widely expected, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s time as head of the economic development committee has come to an end. Thomas, who the attorney general is suing for taking public money to buy himself an Audi, says it's just a temporary break while he sorts out his legal issues. Thomas went on Fox 5 yesterday to give a detailed and vigorous defense of the specific allegations made against him by the attorney general—oops, nevermind, Thomas went on TV to duck questions, and tell everyone that he's entitled to due process, and his lawyer will be providing answers to all our questions some time in the future. The Times checks in with some corporate donors, who are trying to figure out just what they gave money to when they donated to Thomas' non-profit, Team Thomas. Also, it appears from Thomas' interview on Fox that he wanted Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown to put economic development under the control of the entire council, rather than give it to another councilmember. That's exactly what Brown did for now. He says he'll decide where to go after the summer recess. Meanwhile, newly elected Councilmember Vincent Orange wasted no time sending out a news release declaring that he would be a perfect pick to run Thomas' old committee. Orange's request reminds LL of a song.
I Feel Bad: Mayor Vince Gray gave WAMU's Patrick Madden a little piece of his mind yesterday at a news conference after being asked about the recent string of scandals. Madden reports: 'You ask me about how I feel about it, of course I don't feel good about it, Patrick. Why would I feel good about it?' [Gray] says. 'And I feel less good about that there doesn't seem to be any balance. Are you reporting about some of the good things we are doing?' The mayor went around room, asking that question to other reporters. He then shut down the press conference as his staff erupted in applause." Ahh, the old, why don't you reporters ever report good news complaint. Gray should have a chat with LL's mom, who feels the same way. Gray also reacted a little bit more yesterday to Monday's Sulaimon circus, saying Brown's comportment alone is enough to not take his accusations seriously. And it's always bad when the mayor has to declare himself ethical.
Yvette Alexander, Crime Shamer: Do not miss this video of Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander going OFF on a dude who tried to steal another dude's Kindle at Freedom Plaza. "You should be ashamed of yourself. People earn their stuff and you steal! You should be ashamed." (Note Kwame Brown hanging out in the vicinity, too, though he didn't scream at anyone.)
How Legislation is Made: Nice timely news nugget from D.C. Watch's Dorothy Brizill: Kwame Brown promised ethics reform when he was elected council chairman. Brown asked Georgetown University for help. A G-town prof asked grad students to write some memos as part of a graded class project about ethics reform. Those memos were given to Brown's office. Brown introduces ethics bill.
In Other News: Councilmember Michael A. Brown says he's too busy to serve on the Metro board he doesn't go to that often. Housing prices in D.C., explained by LDP. Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton ask House Republicans to be nice.
Council sked: Finance at 9 a.m.; Health at 1 p.m.
Gray sked: Courtesy visit with the ambassador from Liechtenstein.