Loose Lips

Metro Report Dings Jim Graham

An independent investigation commissioned by the Metro board of directors has found that Ward 1Councilmember Jim Graham violated Metro's code of conduct when he served on the board.

The investigation, done by private law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, says Graham, former chairman of the Metro board, broke Metro rules in two ways. One: Graham created "at least the appearance" of a conflict of interest when he tried to leverage the city's lottery contract into getting a developer he didn't like off a Metro development project. Two: Graham "acted contrary to his duty to appear impartial" when he acted favorably toward one of his preferred developers.

Graham pledged to support local businessman Warren Williams Jr.'s' bid to control the city's lottery in exchange for Williams' company, Banneker Ventures, dropping out of a Florida Avenue Metro development, the investigation found. Banneker Ventures had strong ties to former Mayor Adrian Fenty. Graham had long clashed with Williams over Club U, the Williams-run go-go club in the basement of the Reeves Center that Graham got closed down after someone was stabbed there.

The report found that Graham improperly pushed for developer LaKritz Adler to be a part of the Florida Avenue deal while he was opposing Banneker.

"Councilmember Graham’s actions resulted in a breach of his duty to place the public interest foremost in any dealings involving Metro," the report found.

Much of the details in the report have already been made public via the Washington Times and the Washington Post editorial page. But the Metro investigation did get to interview Graham while under oath during a deposition. Graham could not recall doing the things the investigation concluded he did, but he didn't deny doing them, either.

When LL spoke with Graham earlier today, he said he was unaware that the report was going to be made public or that the board was going to discuss it today. He said he would not have a comment until he'd seen a copy of the report. In an earlier response to a Washington Post editorial, Graham denied any contract meddling. "Despite what the Post would like readers to believe, the problem with Banneker was not Jim Graham. The problem with Banneker was Banneker," Graham wrote. (LL will update when/if Graham has more to say.)

The city's inspector general, who investigated the council's actions regarding the lottery contract, found that Graham didn't break any rules but may have created the "appearance that he lost complete independence or impartiality."

It's unclear what the outcome of the Metro investigation will be for Graham, as he's no longer a member of the board. There are no referrals recommended to any law enforcement agency, as there are no conclusions that Graham violated any laws. From the report:

Although the scope and duration of our investigation was limited and we lacked certain tools commonly used by law enforcement to trace the flow of money, we are not aware of any facts to suggest that the conduct of any Metro Board member or Metro employee was motivated by a pecuniary interest. We are not aware of evidence that any payments were offered to, or accepted by, any Metro Board member or Metro employee. Similarly, we are not aware of evidence that any Metro Board member or Metro employee had a financial interest in the Florida Avenue Project or in any of the developers involved in the joint development process.

But the Metro investigation will likely be good for Eric Payne, the former procurement officer in the city's CFO's office. Payne is suing the city, saying he was fired because of improper political pressure he received after awarding Williams the lottery contract. Payne secretly recorded a top aide to CFO Nat Gandhi telling him: "Jim Graham is on a personal vendetta here."

Today, Payne said: "It's unfortunate that it took an independent Metro investigation to bring wrongdoing to the attention of the public" before noting that that several other city watchdog agencies could have come to the same conclusions much earlier.

Update: Graham's response: "I am pleased that this report joins two other prior reports and finds that there was no suggestion on my part of any criminal act or unlawful financial interest or even financial conflict of interest."

The full report:

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • DCPolitical

    Well at least no one can say that the media is on a race-driven vendetta against the city's black politicians any more. (sigh)

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Can we say 'Control Board'. I am sick of all their behinds sitting in the Wilson Building. The D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent Gray all need to go. However, the few people that vote will continue to elect Jim Graham and the rest of these clowns.

    Faints at computer eating a fish sandwich. LOL

  • Gustav Stickley

    Metro used $800,000 of the taxpayers and riders money for this report? That's the real crime here.
    Seems like a whole lot of elevators and escalators could have been repaired but for this waste of money.

  • REALDC

    Lets see which Council Members will call for Graham to resign? Or who will conduct a further investigation? Cheh? Mendelson? How about Wells, he did lead the investigation into Navigator Gate. Come on Barry, call a hearing.

    The funny thing about this is that 2 years ago the whole council voted 12-1 to censure Barry and strip him of his committee chair because he got a "friend" a job with special earmarked money. She borrowed money from Barry and she paid it back after she was paid from her special assignment. About $1200. Fast forward to today:

    Harry Thomas is in jail. -voted to censure and strip Barry
    Kwame Brown is on his way to jail. -voted to censure and strip Barry
    Jim Graham is found to have "cooked" contracts and influence deals- voted to censure and strip Barry.
    Vince Gray has about 3 different investigations on his back- voted to censure and strip Barry
    Michael Brown and tax liens, fraud conviction, suspended license, etc-voted to censure and strip Barry
    Jack Evans and is illegal "Jack PAC" voted to censure and strip Barry
    Catania and his "legal bribe" of a job with MC Dean. -voted to censure and strip Barry.
    Vincent Orange with his MOs from Jeff Thompson- voted to censure and strip Barry.
    Tommy Wells with his grants in exchange for campaign fundraisers with a certain H St bar owner. -voted to censure and strip Barry
    Bowser's is just lousy!- voted as well

    All of them took money from Jeff Thompson!

    At this point, who on the council is not a crook?

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  • Lester

    @REALDC you've summed it up correctly.

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Amen, RealDC

    Faints at the computer.

  • tony

    @REALDC, YOU ARE RIGHT ON POINT.

    Jim Graham's situation really proves what I and others have been saying about how unfair and racist the investigations into the practices and conduct of black politicians really have been.

    As the Washington Post detailed this morning, Mr. Jim Graham has repeatedly engaged in conduct which calls into question his respect for the position he holds and the rule of law. And, yes, while he has not been found guilty of breaking any laws, as he will tell you, he has been found guilty repeatedly of unethical conduct.

    Just take a look at the case at hand. It has been determined that Councilmember Graham used the authority of his position as a council member to try to influence a real estate deal that would have benefited one of his major campaign contributors at the expense of a political foe. Moreover, the operative report findings conclude that “Councilmember Graham’s actions resulted in a breach of his duty to place the public interest foremost..."

    So I must ask myself where is the outrage from the daily commenters who have railed against black politicians for several years who have been accused of far less. Where are the negative and snide comments mocking Mr. Graham's ability to govern? Where’s the 24 hours news reports calling for his colleagues to condemn and strip him of his powers? Where are the calls for his resignation? Where are the calls for a federal investigation? Where are the good folks on this blog who profess to be so concern about good government and ethic reforms?

    No, we see none of that. I wonder why. I wonder if Mr. Graham's name was Mr. Barry would there be a difference in reaction from the fair minded folks on this blog and in this city?

    I have said it before and I will say it again. This effort to root out corruption in city government is no more than an attempt by the white establishment to dismantle black leadership in this city and transfer political power from black politicians to white politicians. And Mr. Graham's case is a testament to the reality.

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  • ToTheContrary

    Jim Graham used to clerk for the USSC. He is no dummy. He knew exactly what he was doing. He didn't report the illegal fraud of his COS to the authorities, instead throwing him under the bus. Yet, the U.S. Attorney is not interested in investingating Graham.

  • tony

    @ToTheContrary, YEAH YOU ARE RIGHT....IT JUST DON'T ADD UP.

  • StrangeFruit

    Absolutely @ Real! Let's see if this paper will brand Councilman Graham with a derogatory nickname as it did Brown and regurgitate the the same story over and over again until the FBI gets involve.

  • StrangeFruit

    Tony and Real, y'all need to start a blog that speaks to the media's bias and encourage Black folk to wake the hell up !

  • mizwillis

    SIGH........

    What about it Real & Tony?
    I'd love to switch to your blog.
    Of course every now and then I'd sneak a peak on ole LL/MM to see how that side thinks.

    And don't get me wrong: I just luv me some Jim Graham,
    the same way I just luv me some Elton John. I even have respect for Da Cat's intellectual prowess. He's just 'tact' challenged.

  • rezInWard4

    If Tony & Real start a blog, I'm there. The bias in much of DC-based media is ratchet & transparent.

  • AM Next

    @StrangeFruit

    Let's help LL find just the right nickname for Graham. Suggestions:

    Jim "Conflict of Interests" Graham

    Jim "Bid Rigger" Graham

    Jim "Pay to Play" Graham

  • AM Next

    @LL

    Re the developers who benefited or could have benefited from Graham's interference

    How about comparing the names of these companies, their principals and families against Graham's campaign contributor records during the same period?

  • StrangeFruit

    @ AM Next,

    I like, Jim "Pay to Play " Graham! Here's another one, CM Jim "Payola" Graham.

  • Alf

    The Ted Lozza Taxigate scandal, Metro pay to play. Isn't it clear enough by now that Jim Graham has more than a hanky stuffed in his back pocket? Please indict him already!

  • Wait, What?

    @REALDC: You are incorrect in that Tommy Wells has not taken money from Jeff Thompson. Don't let that spoil your rant, though.

  • Typical DC BS

    Thank you Ward 1 voters for electing Jim "Cash & Carry" Graham. And thank you in advance for showing your utter stupidity in reelecting this midget moron in the next election.

    If we want to know why DC is so incompetently run, we need to look in the mirror. In the immortal words of Pogo "We have met the enemy, and HE is US".

  • StrangeFruit

    @Typical DC BS,

    Bravo, LOVE IT; Jim "Cash & Carry" Graham, that's hilarious!!! I gotta start using it.

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