Council Bids to Restore Public Trust - NBC4 Washington

Council Bids to Restore Public Trust



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    Members of the D.C. Council worked Friday to address some of the many scandals that surfaced fast and  furious throughout the past week.  In separate efforts, three different council members called for tighter discipline in city government.

    "We do have to restore the public's trust, that we are responsible with our dollars," council member Tommy Wells told the Washington Post.  "But frankly, I am concerned that the laws and regulations of  the District of Columbia were not followed not only in Chairman's Brown case but in other cases."

    Council members Jack Evans and Sekou Biddle rolled out a proposal together that would require Council  approval for a member to drive a taxpayer-financed vehicle.  The Council's tumultuous week started  with the report that two fully-loaded Lincoln Navigator SUV's had been leased for Council chairman Kwame Brown.

    On Friday, the City Paper unearthed an oft-ignored regulation that banned the use of SUV's by government officials who are not police, fire, or other security personnel.  The law was passed in 2003, but the City Paper points out that numerous D.C. executives, including Michelle Rhee, Adrian Fenty, and Vince Gray have all flouted the law.

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    (Published Friday, Feb. 25, 2011)

    Vince Gray's administration has also taken criticism for the generous salaries it has paid out to new hires.  Many newly appointed officials are receiving tens of thousands of dollars more than their predecessors in the Fenty administration.  The Post wrote that Gray's chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, is earning $200,000 a year, a 25 percent increase over the wages being paid Fenty's chief of staff.

    Council member Mary Cheh, who supported Gray's bid for mayor, announced that she would launch an inquiry in to these high salaries.  She told the Post that she had contacted chairman Brown about reducing the Council's budget by ten percent.

    The unceremonial departure of Sulaimon Brown, who was escorted from his post at the Department of Health Care Finance by police officers, stirred further controversy.  Some accused the mayor of cronyism in appointing Brown to a $110,000 post in a department that he had little experience managing.

    The chief of the D.C. Primary Care Association, Sharon Baskerville,  huffed before the council on Friday, "I am warning, this is not the department to dump people."  She said in the hearing that hires had been made for the Health Care Finance department that were not qualified for their posts.

    But in that hearing Friday, one council member stood up and defended the mayor, after his administration's week-long shelacking. 

    "Who's Gray supposed to hire?  His enemies?"  asked council member and former mayor Marion Barry.  "No, just 'cause you're a friend of the mayor's doesn't mean you're not qualified."

    Barry concluded, "To the victor goes the spoils.  Mayor Fenty lost and Mayor Gray won."