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Posted at 10:16 AM ET, 03/10/2011

DeMorning DeBonis: March 10, 2011

By Mike DeBonis


Today in Sulaimonia: I write some more about Howard Brooks, the campaign consultant to Mayor Vincent C. Gray who allegedly paid off Sulaimon Brown. Brooks, it turns out, was brought in by Gray's campaign chairwoman and personal confidant Lorraine Green to advise her team when she was pursuing the D.C. lottery contract a couple of years back. What no one else on the team seemed to know is that Brooks' history with lotteries was checkered, having been sued in 2002 for overbilling the operator of Georgia's lottery more than $1 million. Meanwhile, Brooks' son has quit the $100,000-a-year DMPED job he recently took. As for Sulaimon, Brown said yesterday he was meeting with FBI agents, prompting the U.S. attorney's office to issue a late statement that it "takes these concerns seriously and is working with the FBI to assess the matter." Gray decided to retain his favorite superlawyer, Robert S. Bennett, to serve as his personal counsel. And D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby announced yesterday that not only will he not personally investigate Brown's claims, beause he had interviewed to an OG job, but the whole office will take a pass. This is neither here nor there, but Alan Suderman points out the basic dilemma of this story for Gray: "The worse Brown's credibility looks, the worse Gray's line that he only promised Brown an interview, and not a job, looks. ... If Brown has been so consistently crazy, and he'd been thoroughly vetted, then why did get a $110,000-a-year job?"

AFTER THE JUMP --the pundits suggest that Gray needs to make some personnel changes --Henderson gets the big nod; Gray backs her on IMPACT --UDC board speculation --will Gray do "combined reporting"? --how to hire D.C. residents


REACTION I --The Post's Bob McCartney reminds his readers of an old rap on Gray: "Gray, as an individual, is as straight as they come, but we worry about some of the people around him. He is sometimes a poor judge of character and can be too loyal and indulgent toward people who could serve him and the city poorly." Post-Sulaimon, he writes, "it's too soon to say whether the mayor himself is ethically compromised. But there's no question that some top advisers are directly implicated in the spate of controversies threatening his young administration, and the mayor ought to part ways with them as soon as possible." That starts by "putting some distance between himself and Lorraine Green. ... Then Gray could follow up by replacing one of Green's proteges, Gerri Mason Hall, who is his chief of staff. She's shown lousy political judgment. ... Unfortunately, Gray is showing no signs of following this advice." A parting thought: "Gray needs to send a message now that things are changing. One way would be to withdraw his nomination of Green to chair the board of the Washington Convention Center and Sports Authority. Better to hurt the feelings of a longtime friend than let bad judgment wreck an administration."

ADDENDUM --An administration source gives Bob some news: "For the immediate future, nobody in government gets hired into the excepted service without [the mayor] knowing it."

REACTION II --The Examiner editorial board writes that Gray is "off to a rocky start" and that he "of all people should know that years of cronyism and nepotism in previous administrations eventually forced the city to submit to the hated Control Board. And sweetheart deals with his frat brothers tarnished the reputation of Fenty, the first mayor brave enough to tackle the same rot in the city's public school system. Gray can run a spoils system or a professional government operation, but he cannot do both."

REACTION III --In his Loose Lips column, Suderman asks: "]W]hat happened? How did a guy who looked like a pro while easily dispatching a much-better funded incumbent in September come to look like a lost little lamb by March?" Answer: "At least part of the problem is that people with questionable backgrounds who want city jobs are clearly attracted to Gray --and the mayor doesn't know how to push them away." Solution: "He's the mayor, not the head of human resources. But he needs to find someone who's looking out for his political interests, and quickly. 'They're leaving him hanging out there,' says Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, an avid Gray supporter who says the constant scandal drip coming from Gray's office is 'kind of depressing.' Other Gray supporters, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Gray's inner circle has let him down by being politically tone-deaf. 'Ultimately, he's put his trust in some of the wrong people,' says one supporter."

GRAY STEPS BACK ON IMPACT --It's finally official: Gray wants Kaya Henderson to remain his schools chancellor. The announcement came at his Wednesday news conference, where Gray refused toanswer any questions pertaining to Brown and his allegations --focusing instead on Henderson. Bill Turque does manage to suss out some news for his Post story today: "Gray has tempered his recent criticism of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, which he said in January was unfair to educators in high-poverty schools because it judged them by the same standards used to assess educators working with less-disadvantaged students. ... [Henderson] said that under no circumstances would she support changes to IMPACT that would hold teachers to different standards if they worked in schools with high concentrations of children from low-income homes. 'We will never support an evaluation system which allows teachers in challenged areas to teach less than teachers in other areas,' said Henderson. ... Asked whether he was 'on board' with Henderson's view, Gray said: 'I'm on board with supporting the chancellor.'" In an early critique, the Post's Valerie Strauss writes that while Henderson's style might be different from Michelle Rhee's, she "sounds and acts like Rhee in terms of substance" --including support for rigorous standardized testing and budgetary opacity. Deborah Simmons notes in the Washington Times that Washington Teachers' Union chief Nathan Saunders isn't too happy --but you knew that already. More coverage from CNN.

HOW COLLEGE PRESIDENTS TRAVEL --The Post' Dan de Vise asks at the College Inc. blog: Do other college presidents in the D.C. area fly first class when they travel, or is it just UDC's Allen Sessoms, who claims medical reasons motivate his pricey tickets. Answer: "By chance, Georgetown President John DeGioia was in our office on Tuesday, meeting with The Washington Post's editorial board. So we asked how he travels. His answer: business class. 'We have rules about these things,' he said. ... University of Maryland President Wallace Loh 'travels coach in the continental U.S.,' said Beth Cavanaugh, a university spokeswoman. 'He has not done any international travel yet, but when that happens, policy allows him to travel business class.' ... American University President Neil Kerwin flies coach unless the trip is five hours or more; in such cases, university policy dictates that business class is allowable, said spokeswoman Maralee Csellar. University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan flies coach, according to spokeswoman Marian Anderfuren. ... Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard travels coach, said spokeswoman Beth Homan. Trinity Washington University President Patricia McGuire sent a typically thoughtful essay on her own travel routine: 'Travel is an occupational hazard for all presidents. I have personal rules that I apply pretty vigorously on this. First, if I must fly, it's on the cheapest ticket possible. Second, I stay at the least costly hotel so long as it's safe and free of bugs,' she wrote. A recent Florida trip 'included such garden spots as the Red Roof Inn and LaQuinta.'" Meanwhile, WTTG-TV keeps its scoop alive with more campus reax, as does the Informer, and a Post letter writer defends Sessoms:

"Mr. Sessoms is far from perfect, but he is delivering much-needed change. It would be a shame if we were so distracted by "bling" that we missed the progress he has made."

UDC BOARD SPECULATION --Among the names floted for the UDC board at a hearing Tuesday --and I stress floated --are, per the Washington Times' Simmons: ex-Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines, sporting mogul Ted Leonsis, BET founder Robert Johnson, Washington wise man Vernon Jordan, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and BET CEO Debra Lee. Notes Simmons: "Mr. Gray's picks likely will not face the same finger-wagging as those of Mr. Fenty, whose UDC nominees were summarily rejected by the council when Mr. Gray was its chairman. 'I have reached out to the mayor and he will be sending names to the council soon,' Council Chairman Kwame Brown said Tuesday. 'He understands the importance of moving quickly on this matter, I will move the nominees quickly for hearing]s] once they are received.'"

KWAMEMOBILE EXCUSES --Kwame Brown appeared yesterday on Bruce DePuyt's NewsChannel 8 show, where, naturally, he was asked about his SUV(s). There, he repeated a favorite line about how he handled the controversy: "When I found out how much the vehicle cost, I immediately said that, one, this vehicle should go back and that, two, I would definitely pay for the cost of me using that particular vehicle." Suderman busts that piece of rhetoric at the LL blog: "But is that what really happened? ... We know Brown did not give the SUV back to the city immediately [after Suderman disclosed the price] --that didn't happen until a couple of days after DeBonis' story ran and a tidal wave of indignation swept the city. And [spokeswoman Traci Hughes] also never said boo about Brown's intention to pay the city back for using the Navigator. Again, that announcement didn't come until after the Post story. Brown obviously would like nothing better than to move past the Navigator story. And frankly, LL wouldn't mind something new to talk about either. But the story's not going away as long as Brown keeps telling fibs."

WHITHER COMBINED REPORTING? --In the B-item in his LL column, Suderman wonders why Gray and the council have yet to implement "combined reporting," a corporate tax requirement that could generate $100 million for the city over four years: "One might think that with the support of [Natwar Gandhi], the guy most elected officials in the District see as the last word on all things financial, and [Jack Evans], who is opposed to pretty much every other type of tax increase, combined reporting would breeze into law. One might also think, after listening to Gray repeatedly talk about shared sacrifices, that the mayor would be jumping at a chance to make corporations pay their fair share. But that's not the case. Gray hasn't given any indication whether he'll include combined reporting and the revenue it will generate in the budget he's supposed to release on April 1. ... It could be that Gray is being his normal deliberative self. ... Or it could be that Gray, as Evans took the rather unusual step of suggesting to LL, is trying to accommodate the business community that backed him." Key supporter and D.C. Chamber boss Barbara Lang, for instance, is against it.

HOW TO HIRE D.C. RESIDENTS --From City Paper's Lydia DePillis, an interesting look at first-source-style hiring as it's happening at the St. Elizabeths homeland security project: "The latest totals aren't exactly jaw-dropping: Of 610 total jobs, 216 are held by District residents, 89 of whom are new hires. Ward 8 contributes 63 of the D.C. resident employees, 41 of them new hires. The Opportunities Center has collected 3,000 resumes but connected just 44 people with employment. ... [But] if it were being held to the city's own legal standards, Clark would pass with flying colors. The District only requires 51 percent of new hires--not total employees--to be residents; St. Elizabeths is so far running at about two-thirds. Given the District's dismal history of holding municipal contractors to the city's First Source law, that's nothing to sneeze at. So why has Uncle Sam done so much better than city hall when it comes to meeting D.C.'s own local-hiring guidelines? The answer is a little perverse: Precisely because of the lack of statutory baselines, [Eleanor Holmes Norton] has browbeaten Clark more than D.C. mayors typically cajole those contractors whose projects are actually paid for with local cash."


The Graduate School USA will anchor Southwest Waterfront development (Post. WBJ)

Sinclair Skinner's first tweet: "How's d Gray thing going, D.C? This has been years n d making. You've been hoodwinked. It's ok, they've been using me for years." (@SkinnerLiber8ted)

Surprise: Metro is behind on maintenance (Post)

Meet the Mayor's Commission on HIV/AIDS (news release, Blade)

How to prevent another nightmare snow commute? A "regional joint information center" (Post)

Richard Whitmire: How race issues tripped up Michelle Rhee (HuffPo)

Collared cops plead not guilty (WTOP)

Why Harry Jaffe is sexist (TBD)

WTU wants you to meet some fired teachers (Examiner)

A look at the new summer jobs program (Informer)

"D.C's Eviction Season Nears" (Afro)

More on proposed D.C. Water rate increases (GGW)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Gray attends "One City Roundtable" at Corporate Voices for Working Families, 11 a.m.; announces Graduate School move to Waterfront, noon; meets with judicial officials at Moultrie Courthouse, 4 p.m. --council oversight hearings on D.C. Public Schools, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412; on Department of Health Care Finance, 10 a.m. --gov. ops committee takes up bill to change primary date, 2 p.m. in JAWB 120

By Mike DeBonis  | March 10, 2011; 10:16 AM ET
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Next: D.C. Council tensions erupt over Gray hiring allegations

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