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July 11, 2010

Fire Peter Nickles

Dear Personnel Department:

So that I don’t bury the lede, let me start by saying that late last week Attorney General Peter Nickles stepped well over the line, and did something that requires that he be fired for malfeasance in office and also possibly disbarred. He said that he would use his power as Attorney General to retaliate personally, illegitimately, against Council Chairman Vincent Gray because he was angry that Gray criticized his negotiation of a settlement agreement with Fenty’s frat cronies at Banneker Ventures. Here’s how Tim Craig reported his interview with Nickles in Friday’s Washington Post ( “He also said he plans to investigate Gray for possible cronyism because of alleged ties to the winner of the city’s multimillion-dollar lottery contract. ‘He should have picked on someone else, because I am not going to stand by and have these outrageous assertions be made,’ Nickles said of Gray.” Nickles made it clear that he will use his power as the city’s top law enforcement official to conduct a personal vendetta against an elected official, that he will launch a legal investigation punitively because of his personal pique, and that makes him unfit to remain in his position.

Banneker Ventures’s contracts with the city were highly irregular, were disapproved by the city council, and are still being investigated by a joint committee of the city council and by Robert Trout, that joint committee’s special counsel. In a move obviously made to protect Banneker and its officials from the consequences of whatever illegal acts that investigation may disclose, Nickles negotiated a settlement agreement with Banneker ( that not only paid it an additional $550,000 after the contract had been disapproved, and on top of the “Christmas Eve gift” that the District paid it without the knowledge or assent of the council, but also gave Banneker and its officers a complete release from any liability that may result from that investigation. Nickles denies that the settlement agreement immunizes Banneker, both in his interview with Craig and in the letter to councilmembers ( in which he refused to appear at the council roundtable that was held last Friday to investigate the settlement agreement. But Nickles’ misleading denial is completely contradicted by paragraph 7 of the settlement agreement, which says, “. . . the District hereby remises, releases and forever discharges Banneker and Regan, each of their successors and assigns, administrators, executors, and any other person claiming by, through, or under Banneker or Regan, of and from all agreements, actions, cases, causes of action, claims, compromises, controversies, costs, damages, debts, demands, disputes, expenses, judgments, liabilities, payments, promises, and suits of any nature whatsoever, including attorneys’ fees, whether or not known, relating to, arising under, or in connection with Banneker’s or Regan’s provision, under the Contract, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. . . .” The guarantee that the council’s investigation will not lead to any legal consequences for Banneker and its president, Omar Karim, is worth more to them than the $550,000 Nickles gave them in the agreement.

At the roundtable held on Friday, even though Nickles refused to appear, representatives of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer discussed how settlement agreements are negotiated. They said that Nickles, or any city agency or department, had the authority to negotiate settlements up to a half million dollars, but that any settlement over a half million dollars had to be signed off on by the mayor, or the mayor had to explicitly delegate his authority. But Nickles, both in his letter to the council and his interview with Craig, denied that the mayor had any knowledge of or involvement in his negotiations with Banneker, and thereby inadvertently admitted that he didn’t have the legal authority to negotiate a settlement of the size that he made. The OCF representatives also revealed that the Chief Financial Officer had issued an order putting a hold on payments on the settlement agreement from any agency or department over which he had authority, but they didn’t inform the councilmembers that in fact an attempt had already been made by the Attorney General’s office to get the Department of Parks and Recreation to cut a check to Banneker.

Because of the questionable agreement, and the questionable way that it was negotiated, City Council Chairman Vince Gray issued a press release headlined “Attorney General Has Betrayed the Public Trust,” which said that, “Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly clear that Peter Nickles not only sees himself as the mayor’s lawyer, but also as the mayor’s political hatchet man, and enabler of the mayor’s cronyism. His politicization of the office is inappropriate at best, and illegal at worst. And by protecting the mayor’s cronies, he has put the interest of the mayor squarely ahead of the interest of his actual client. He has betrayed the public trust too many times to be an effective public advocate. Mayor Fenty should relieve him of his duties immediately” ( It was Gray’s outrage at Nickles’ manipulation of the settlement process that led to his press release, and it was Gray’s press release that led to Nickles’ promise to abuse his power and misuse his office to satisfy his own personal revenge.

Gary Imhoff


Bowser’s Folly, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

In the last issue of themail [July 7], I wrote that Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser failed to give adequate public notice of the confirmation hearing her Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs held on Wednesday, July 7, on the reappointment of Betty Ann Kane as Chair of the Public Service Commission. Despite the lack of public notice and input, Bowser scheduled a meeting of her five-member committee at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 8, to mark up and approve Kane’s nomination, so that it could be placed on the council’s legislative agenda this coming Tuesday.

In a highly unusual act, Kane, the nominee, was the first person to arrive at the markup. In addition to being upbeat and confident regarding her reappointment, Kane noted that she had interrupted her Maine vacation in order to attend the confirmation hearing on Wednesday and markup on Thursday. She also boasted about the celebratory party her PSC staff had held for her after the confirmation hearing. However, as the hours ticked by and the 1:30 p.m. committee meeting had not been convened, Kane and Bowser’s upbeat demeanor changed dramatically. In order to vote and conduct any business, Bowser’s committee needed a quorum of three of the five members. But only two members of the committee, Bowser and Graham, agreed to attend the markup. The other three members — Cheh, Barry, and Michael Brown — refused to attend the meeting, not because of any personal objections to Kane, but because of widespread objections from citizens and utility rate payers that Bowser had failed to give citizens adequate notice of the confirmation hearing on Kane’s nomination, and failed to give them an opportunity to testify. While Bowser continued to walk the halls of the Wilson Building throughout the afternoon in search of an additional committee member, Mary Cheh convened a scheduled 4:00 p.m. Meeting of her Committee on Government Operations and the Environment with the five members of her committee (Cheh, Catania, Kwame Brown, Thomas, and Wells) in attendance. However, shortly after the meeting began, David Catania indicated he wanted to make a statement. His remarks, which can be seen at, turned out to be a bitter, mean-spirited, and off-topic rant against Cheh for not attending Bowser’s meeting and “for refusing to make herself available to vote on a nominee to the Public Service Commission.” Catania, acting on Bowser’s behalf, went on to chastise Cheh for “failing to discharge her committee duties and obligations” as a member of Bower’s committee. Even after Cheh’s markup meeting was over, the drama continued. Catania and Kane, both angry and agitated, paced up and down the corridor outside Cheh’s office for an extended period of time.

In the end, Bowser wasn’t able to muster a quorum of her committee on Thursday or Friday. As a result, Kane’s nomination to the PSC will not be on the Council’s legislative agenda on Tuesday. Under District law, although her term expired June 30, Kane will be able to continue to service on the PSC for an additional 180 days. Hopefully, in the fall, when the council returns from its summer recess, Bowser will decide to respect citizens with an open, public nomination process.


93,773 Registered Voters Deleted from DC’s Electoral Roll
Pam Johnson,

The Washington Post recently reported the District government revoked 93,773 registered voters of their voting privilege. The article stated that DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) removed 93,773 registered voters because they haven’t voted since, at least 2002. According to a news release from the BOEE, the decision to revoke voting privileges from registered voters was based on a “comprehensive review of the voter registration database” and, “none of these voters has cast a ballot in the District in at least eight years, nor responded to repeated notices from our office.” Herein lies the paradox of timing. By its admission of negligence, the BOEE knew its database included individuals that haven’t voted since 2002, and in some cases, as far back as 1988. That’s 22 years of maintaining inaccurate records and not taking proactive measures to correct the problem.

On June 14, three months before the 2010 election, the BOEE reviewed its database; classified 93,773 registered voters as inactive and, in one foul swoop, excommunicated them from the electoral roll. Based on the BOEE’s news release and justification for the purge, one can conclude that the voter’s registration database needed to be audited, but the questionable timing is prone to raise doubts about the motive. Election dates are set in stone! The BOEE and voters know a mayor will be elected every four years. The BOEE also has an obligation to fulfill its mission to “assure integrity of the electoral process” and not obfuscate it. To be knowledgeable of a problem for decades and wait until three months prior to a mayoral election to implement an untested solution is indicative of poor planning and can be perceived as politically motivated and taint the 2010 election. This unmethodical purge of 93,773 registered voters is bound to have errors and alienate legitimate, active voters.

In our brief review of BOEE’s list of purged voters, we noticed several individuals that had reregistered to vote as recently as 2009, but haven’t actually voted since 2002. They were classified as inactive and purged from the list of eligible voters. What if these individuals, that haven’t voted in years, reregistered for the sole purpose of voting in 2010, and are denied the right to cast their official ballot on Election Day? In one of the most highly anticipated mayoral elections since 1974, that has the potential for a historic voter turnout, the purging of 93,773 registered voters doesn’t augur well for a climate of trust and confidence in the District’s Board of Elections and Ethics. You can check the list of purged voters at If you want to voice your concerns or have your name removed from the list, please call the Board of Elections and Ethics at 727-2525.


School Crossing Guards Multiplying This Summer
Pat Taylor,

What’s going on with school crossing guards? Summer school has started and school crossing guards are multiplying. The nearby elementary school in my Capitol Hill neighborhood has more than double the number of crossing guards for summer school as it had during the regular school year. A quiet intersection with little traffic close to my house had no crossing guards during the school year and now has two. It really needs none. Another, busier intersection had one crossing guard in the school year and now has three! Why this increase? Is this part of the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program? Is this a “make work” operation? Which DC agency is using taxpayer money to pay these surplus school crossing guards?


Thinking About Metro Fare Increases
Phil Shapiro,

I was taking the Verizon Metro Red Line into town today when I started wondering whether there were anything that could be done to reduce fare increases. Sorry, can’t think of anything myself.


Monitoring the Best Tweets About Interns
Phil Shapiro,

In order to better serve the Washington, DC, community, the Washington Post is monitoring the most hilarious, amusing, cute or shocking tweets about internships and interns at


The InTowner July 2010 Issue Now Available
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the PDF of the July 2010 issue (which includes 100 percent of all content, including the popular Scenes from the Past feature, this month titled “Restaurants Remembered” plus photos and other images), has now been posted on our web site,, and may be opened by clicking the front page graphic on the home page.

This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) “Surplus Property Designation and Disposition Plans Continue to be Controversial; Council Yet to Act”; 2) “Long-Awaited New Library in Shaw to Open August 2; New Building Design Hailed”; and 3) “Logan Circle’s Kingman Boys and Girls Club Faces Concerns for its Future.” The Selected Street Crimes feature, which is separately posted on the web site, will be updated later on, at which time we will provide notification.

The next issue PDF will publish around midnight of August 13 (the second Friday of the month as usual). For more information, either send an E-mail to or call 234-1717.


Whew — All We Have Is SB 1070
Star Lawrence,

Schadenfreude! All we have out here in Phoenix is SB 1070 and the cartels pasting people’s faces on soccer balls and tossing them around. You have Rhee.


Hatch Act
Denise Wiktor,

Interesting that Turque would go to Nickles for an opinion on Hatch Act violations (, since it is not enforced by his office but the federal Office of Special Counsel,



Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Dances Garages, July 16-17
Johanna Weber,

July 16 and 17, 8:00-9:00 p.m., garage/dances. Parking garages combine form with function. In this specially commissioned performance, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange brings out the motion and emotion inherent in an actual parking garage. Free; registration required. This program takes place at 1711 Florida Avenue, NW. Register for Friday, July 16 at; register for Saturday, July 17 at


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