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Nickles takes public aim at Gray's DHS record

nickles.JPGAttorney General Peter Nickles, long known as Mayor Adrian Fenty's prime governmental attack dog, is emerging as an aggressive surrogate for Fenty (D) on the campaign trail.

In a morning interview with NewsChannel 8's Bruce DePuyt, Nickles unleashed fierce criticism of Gray's early-'90s management record as the city's human services director. "When you look at it, it's not very nice," he said, detailing setbacks in the child welfare and mental health agencies that Gray (D) oversaw from 1991 to 1994.

Nickles and Gray share roots that extend much deeper than their current stints as attorney general and council chairman. Nickles was hailed in a 1994 Post article as "dean of the public interest lawyers" involved in suits filed against the city -- including one challenging the mental health services administered by Gray's department in the early '90s.

"That was an era [when federal courts] continually said, 'What the District of Columbia is doing is outrageous,' " Nickles said. He continued: "That is the only time, I think, that the chairman has said I acted as an executive within the political structure. ... [W]e ended up with more court orders and more of these findings. ... [T]hat was not a good time for the individuals we served."

Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes raised questions about whether it was appropriate for Nickles to address such a politically fraught issue. "The last time I checked it was the attorney general's role to serve District residents and not to carry out Mayor Fenty's political attacks," Hughes said Monday afternoon. She accused Nickles of "campaigning effectively while he's on the clock" -- a potential violation of legal restrictions on the political activities of government employees.

Nickles told me in a telephone conversation he's "willing to respond to questions on which I have personal knowledge," adding that the questions about Gray's DHS tenure are to him a "very particular situation, a very personal situation."

He added: "When people ask me what my personal views are, what am I supposed to say? That I can't get involved? That I can't say what I think?"

I asked Nickles what his impression of Gray had been during those years. He didn't shy away from reiterating what's become a Fenty campaign theme: "I thought he was thoughtful and I thought he was very, very deliberate -- deliberate to a point where nothing got done. I thought those traits served him very, very well in the legislature. But in the executive, you've got to make things work, and they didn't."

Nickles also noted that Gray invited the scrutiny: "I'm speaking out as a citizen who was right in the middle of it," he said. "The chairman has said, 'Let's get it on.' Well ... "

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 28, 2010; 3:09 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray  
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Peter Nickles is the city's attorney general. Why is he getting in the political fray? Yet one more reason I will be glad to vote for an ELECTED attorney general.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 28, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Peter Nickles is simply Mayor Fenty's pitbull on a tightly controlled leash. I find it difficult to view Nickles as a true legal advocate for the city when in fact he is simply an appointmented monkey banging his cymbals together for King Fenty. DC needs an elected attorney general!!! Could it be that Nickles' criticism of Gray is because when Gray is elected Mayor the first thing that will happen is that Peter Nickles will be fired?!!

Posted by: ashafer_usa | June 28, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Peter "Wooden" Nickles continues to descend ever farther into the ethical depths. From Personal Attorney to Emperor Adrian (as opposed to his sworn responsibility to represent the entire government and people of the District), to Official Mouthpiece of the Emperor (because Fenty is incapable of speaking intelligently for himself), to Designated Campaign Attack Dog. It is disgraceful beyond words to see how Nickles has demeaned the position of Attorney General for the District of Columbia, a post which has been filled with accomplishment and distinction by many well respected members of the DC legal establishment.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Fenty, a man who was barely competent himself as an attorney (and that is being generous), would have so little regard for the law and for the public trust placed in the District's chief legal counsel. I had expected far better from Nickles, though, given his prior reputation. Clearly, I was wrong.

As for today's debacle, Traci Hughes has hit the nail right on the head. Hatch Act violations, anyone? I hope the federal investigators are paying attention.

Posted by: nan_lynn | June 28, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Please keep in mind that Peter is Fenty's God Daddy. I guess that duty is wayyyy more important then being the AG for D.C.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | June 28, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Has Peter provide those docs on NCRC and AWC yet?

Posted by: thelildiva4u | June 28, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I have voted in many mayoral elections, and I have never heard of the Attorney General, nor the head of DCPS ever campaign for any sitting mayor. So why is Peter Nickles campaigning for the current mayor?

Posted by: fivetogo | June 28, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I would also like to state that the current mayor and Mr. Nickles are discussing issues that happened in the 1990's. There are many "newbies" that were not even here in DC during the 90's. Therefore Mr. Nickles and the current mayor are discussing issues that many people new to DC don't even know about. Stick to issues that happened in the new millenium.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 28, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Anyone starting to smell the cozy relationship between Nickles and Fenty yet. Many understand this relationship and yet many still don't. It has been inappropriate from the start and a better Attorney General was forced out of office for the godfather who lives in Great Falls, Virgina.

Yep and he and his law firm screwed the District of Columbia.

Don't let this clown fool ya!

Posted by: dcchamp1 | June 28, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"The chairman has said, 'Let's get it on.' Well ... "

Well, what!?!?!?!?? When Mr. Gray made this statement he was speaking directly to his opponent Mr. Fenty, now unless these two are joined at the hip then why is Mr. Nickles interjecting himself into a Mayoral Campaign. An even greater issue is why is the Attorney General for DC involving himself in this matter, in this manner. Further, doesn't he still reside in VA?

This overreaching and overstepping of boundaries is digusting. Why would Mr. Nickles sink to this low level. Mr. Fenty has been Mayor since 2006 and Mr. Gray has been Chairman of the Council since 2007 can we please stick to those years. If we are going to start bringin up past situations and try to paint them as Mr. Gray's responsibility then remember that it can work both ways.

1990's were some 20 years that ALL YOU GOT!!!! SAD, SAD, SAD, SAD!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: lacairaine | June 28, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I have lived in D.C. for most of my adult life and I have never, ever, seen an attorney general who has ignored the boundry between the Mayor's personal interests and that of the D.C. citizens. In the 1990's the government was beyond bankrupt. Gray didn't do that. Part of the problem was that D.C. had to support big ticket items, such as D.C. General, the entire Correctional system, Superior Court, and on and on. The same legistlation that established the Control Board also took a great many functions away from the city, recognizing that the city didn't not have the resources to supportr what are essentially state-level functions. Fenty inhereted a city budget that was, slimmed down, balanced and had significant reserves, and he has run it into the ground. I think if they best they can do is that Gray couldn't solve the problems of an agency that is still in trouble to this day, Gray has it won, hands down.

Posted by: tacard1 | June 28, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

"Nickles takes public aim at Gray's DHS record"

WEll here's hoping that after the September primary, Nickles will only have to worry about aiming at the toilet. Then we can get on with the city's business.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 28, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

this really should be a problem. The AG should know what is and isn't appropriate.

Posted by: mamaspearl | June 28, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Quite frankly, having Nickles attack him makes me more likely to vote for Gray. Hell, seeing or hearing the words "Attorney General Peter Nickles" makes me more likely to vote for Gray.

Posted by: 20009matt | June 28, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Someone please step up and file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel b/c Nickles has violated the Hatch Act. Go to The penalty for violation is removal from office. Someone who will not be retaliated against needs to do this...Maybe OSC will read the post and start its own investigation.

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | June 28, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Peter Nickles-Cheney might as well get in his shots now because he, like AF, will be history after November. Most kids pick the fight then send in their dad to fight the fight. I think that's what we're seeing here. Wake up, voters!

Posted by: ssmd11 | June 28, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

DC Justice makes quite a strong point. If Nickles is on the clock and/or using his title during these interviews, he is violating the Hatch Act. Moreover, as the Attorney General, Nickles should not discuss any matter. He is supposed to protect the city, not the mayor.

DC Justice, did he also violate the Hatch Act by criticizing four DC Councilmembers directly? That hardly seems appropriate either.

It seems like people in the Fenty camp might be experiencing a group melt down. It's sad to see it come to this because I admit I once supported Fenty. Such a sad downward spiral and bound to worsen over the summer.

Posted by: southyrndiva | June 29, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The insolence of Fenty and his army of cronies is astounding. It seems a day can't go by as the election approaches without some new insult.

Begged out of education debate - check. Chancellor of schools threatens to leave if Fenty is ousted - check. AG criticizing his opponent's performance almost 20 years ago - check. Why not just be a man and give the popuation of DC the finger to our faces?

Posted by: jamietre | July 1, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

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