Loose Lips

Jim Graham Spent $1,500 in City Money to Attend Liz Taylor Memorial

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham was reimbursed for nearly $1,500 he spent to attend a star-studded memorial service for Elizabeth Taylor in October 2011, city records show. The attendees at the 400-person private event held at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., included celebrities Elton John, Michael Caine, and Colin Farrell.

In paperwork Graham submitted to the D.C. Council secretary's office, Graham asked that he be reimbursed for $1,482.36 for airfare, a hotel, and a rental car for a two-day trip to Los Angeles. Graham wrote on the form that he attended the memorial "in my capacity as councilmember."

"It was a small but very visible event," Graham wrote.

The event was visible, but Graham's presence at it wasn't: A Nexis search found no news articles that mention Graham's attendance. Which means D.C. didn't get much visibility for its official representation there.

Asked for comment, Graham repeated that he "went as a representative of the Council," but did not respond to follow up questions about why his trip was publicly financed.

The trip came a month after Graham, long an advocate for increased spending on the city's social services, voted to increase income taxes on the city's highest earners. As councilmember, Graham makes more than $125,000 a year.

Graham knew Taylor through his last job, as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Health, which specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment. Graham approached Taylor, a prominent HIV/AIDS activist, about lending her name to a clinic on 14th Street NW. After Taylor died in March 2011, Graham shared this memory of her with the Washington Post:

I spent the most remarkable three hours with her in her living room in Bel Air in 1992. This was the genesis of getting her permission to name the new Whitman-Walker medical clinic [on 14th Street NW] after her. We largely discussed HIV and AIDS. . . . I remember that she was sitting on her couch and I was sitting on a chair, and when I could no longer absorb her incredible violet eyes, I could look above her shoulder at a van Gogh painting. . . . She was so engaged on HIV issues, so intelligent, so conversant. . . . I left totally impressed because there were so many celebrities that get involved but never really get deeply involved. But she really did.

Graham's request was approved by the Council Secretary Nyasha Smith, and then by officials in the Office of Chief Financial Officer, records show. LL got the paperwork concerning the trip through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Newly elected D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says he'd not been aware of Graham's trip until LL brought it to his attention. He says he's going to make inquiries about the reasons for the publicly sponsored travel.

"There could be a justification," Mendelson says. "I haven't talked to anyone."

Mendelson said that in general, "I have a concern that we in the government ... need to be judicious in how we spend tax dollars. The public doesn't support taking trips that are unrelated to official business."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • tony

    I am glad that Jim Graham is finally getting his due. I and others have been waiting a long time for this proper oversight of Mr. Graham's affairs.

    Man, I bet Jamal and "Chip" are downtown D.C. laughing their asses off. lol!

  • noodlez2: electric bugaloo

    "Graham, long an advocate for increased spending on the city's social services, voted to increase income taxes on the city's highest earners."


  • Ward One Resident

    Oh, I'm sure the Teflon Don will somehow weasel his way out of this one too...I mean after all, no laws were broken! (sigh..slamming head on desk).

  • Angelina

    Ron Machen, do your job and put the cuffs on Graham and Gandhi!!!

  • Typical DC BS

    Graham felt he needed to be there to represent the DC gay community. It's always forgotten that when Graham left Whitman-Walker to become a city councilman (Whitman-Walker being his sole "claim to fame"), it was discovered that the place was on the verge of a fiscal collapse becaause of this moron's lack of accountability. His talent at siphoning off money for questionable purposes is astounding.
    Let's not forget that when he got his panties in a bunch when "his guy" didn't get the towing car lot business from the DC government, he sicced the city council and the feds on Doug Jemal and his sweetheart of a lease to store the District's towed cars in PG County.
    The sooner the voters pick this parasite off their skin (and don't let him parachute into some cushy, no-work DC related job), the sooner we can be assured we have people looking out for US, not themselves.

  • ward4rez

    That damn fool is so full of himself. A few years ago he had recruits from the fire academy serving drinks at his birthday party. He must be Teflon, because his various shenanigans hardly bring any repercussions. Whenever he brings his little ugly self to a community meeting and pretends to be Joe Public with the nod and handshake routine, I go out of my way to ignore him.

  • Jes’ sayin’

    Elizabeth Taylor devoted much of her later life to the care and dignity of people with AIDS and the search for a cure. She came to Washington and donated and helped raise funds for the Whitman-Walker Clinic. She was an angel and heroine to people with AIDS and their loved ones here in DC.

    It was entirely proper for DC to send a representative to her memorial service.

    There may be other issues involving Mr Graham, but complaining about his attending a memorial service for Liz Taylor is nit-picking to say the least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    @Jes' sayin': No one is complaining about him attending a memorial service for Liz Taylor. The problem is he flip the bill for the trip to DC taxpayers.

  • Truth hurts

    This, sad to say, does represent what the city pols have become: freeloaders mooching off the taxpayers.

  • Alf

    The queen of scammers! If he thought it was worthwhile, he should have used private funds.

  • Alf

    "A few years ago he had recruits from the fire academy serving drinks at his birthday party."

    Did he make them dress up as the Village People?!

  • michelle jones

    The adult female shelters in DC have raw sewage dripping from the cielling onto the ladies with roaches falling on them while they sleep. It was amazing to see that shit. I thought DC had a few good politicians but I know better now.

  • RealDC


    The little troll, with the Sally Jesse Raphael glasses, owes the city money for that trip!

    Come on Mendelson do something ???

  • teamtango

    tip of the iceberg of questionable expenditures during the kwame/cheh reign

  • http://ConsDem ConsDem

    He should not have gone as a City representative. If he had an endearing conversation with Liz that was personal and he should have spent his own money. How it could have been approved I cannot understand. I am a Democrat but Patrick Mara is running in the special election for the At Large seat. I think we need some new blood on the Council even if he is a Republican. Remember Schwartz - a liberal republican.

  • DC Voter

    Just another reason why Graham's fellow council members nicknamed him "My Fair Lady." The aging queen needs to go.

  • ward4rez


  • Bruce Majors

    But he looked f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s!

  • NE John

    People at the show kept asking him why did Jesus want to go to Venus

  • Tina

    He wanted to go to the funeral of his friend and his used city funds to do it. It had nothing to do with his position, but it's hardly surprising behavior from a member of the DC council.

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