Sherwood's Notebook: Those Lingering Gray Shadows

Former Mayor Vincent Gray was walking on K Street in downtown Washington on Monday. Beside him, a friend and former campaign manager Chuck Thies.

A few people stopped to say hi to the mayor, a few others called out to him. One passerby purposely shook his hand as a measure of support.

Let’s be blunt about it.

A lot of people think Gray lost his 2014 reelection bid and has gotten a bum deal on that 2010 shadow campaign investigation that has passed the five-year mark.

And there appears to be no end in sight.

Gray was a guest Monday on WPFW 89.3 FM radio. Thies was the guest host and promptly disclosed his association with Gray. The two men discussed all sorts of issues and then Thies asked if there were anything new in the federal probe.

“Nothing,” Gray said tersely.

You can’t blame Gray for being tired of the subject.

Five years is a long time to be under investigation by anyone.

Leaving the studio Monday, we pressed Gray for a little more reaction. The Notebook has heard that the probe has made some organizations gun-shy in hiring Gray. Who would want to do that if the probe suddenly erupted into embarrassing criminal charges?

Gray said he is getting on with his life, doing some remodeling on his home, teaching a course at Catholic University and playing amateur baseball once a week. “I’m doing the things I want to do at this stage,” he told us.

But what about that probe?

“Obviously, I wish that [investigation] were over with,” Gray somberly replied. “I think it should be over with, and I hope it is soon.”

Gray’s public remarks prompted another call to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Spokesperson William Miller was characteristically brief and to the point.

“The investigation involving the 2010 mayor’s election is active and ongoing,” he said. That’s a bit stronger than earlier remarks that “the investigation is continuing.”

Some Gray supporters have suggested the probe has come up empty and that prosecutors are just too embarrassed to say. They note that U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen stepped down April 1 without bringing charges against Gray.

“The investigation [itself] is the scandal,” Thies told NBC4. Noting the five-year timeline, Thies said, “It’s clear that Mayor Gray did nothing wrong. He has been saying that for five years. And this thing is just petering out.”

Machen’s deputy Vincent Cohen Jr. is now serving as acting U.S. attorney.
So District citizens are about where they have been the last couple of years. The probe is continuing. Six people have pleaded guilty to various crimes in the case and all await sentencing after cooperating with authorities. But no conclusion yet when it comes to Vincent C. Gray.

■ A new Gray campaign? On the radio show, Thies asked if Gray might consider reviving his political career, maybe running for the council at-large next year or for his home Ward 7? Gray said he hadn’t really thought about it: “I rule nothing out, nothing in.”
And then Gray smiled and briefly chuckled, maybe thinking that’s something he ought to think about.

■ Lesson learned. Lots of D.C. taxpayers and school parents are praising a move by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. He’s suing two D.C. police officers who allegedly defrauded the District out of $224,000 by living in the suburbs but sending their children to D.C. public schools without paying out-of-city tuition.

“You shouldn’t take advantage of the taxpayers of the District of Columbia and expect to get away with it, and suits like these are one of the tools we use to safeguard public integrity,” Racine said in announcing the court case.

The two police officers — one a lieutenant, another a sergeant — are alleged to have violated the D.C. False Claims Act over a 10-year period while they lived in Maryland and Virginia.
The attorney general’s office noted that city lawyers since 2012 have been more aggressively going after parents suspected of school fraud. It said the city has won 13 monetary judgments and reached five out-of-court settlements totaling $773,000.

That’s a good math lesson for any parent out there.

■ Praising UDC’s top lawyer. Dean Shelley Broderick since 1999 has led the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law, helping the school grow into a respected center of learning that focuses on practical, clinical learning and service, with strong accreditation from the American Bar Association.

Later this month, another award is coming her way. The D.C. Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild will cite her “leadership and contributions to the DC legal community.”

If she gets many more awards — there have been too many to name here — she’ll have to take over some of that space in the university’s new student center building (still under construction) to store them.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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