Mayor Gray faces House ethics probe

A leading House Republican launched investigations last week into claims that alumnus and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray paid a former mayoral candidate to attack competitor and former Mayor Adrian Fenty on the campaign trail in November.

Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., announced the probe after former mayoral candidate and ex-District employee Sulaimon Brown alleged Gray paid him and promised him a job if he verbally attacked Fenty. Brown was fired from a job with the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance last month.

Issa said he is “deeply concerned” about the allegations, adding that he is not confident the city government is capable of efficiently determining if the allegations are valid.

“As such, the oversight and government reform committee has begun a full investigation to determine the facts and will report its findings,” Issa said.

Gray has repeatedly denied the charges, saying he has no knowledge of any alleged payments or promised position made by Gray or his team. The mayor asked the D.C. Attorney General to investigate the matter March 6.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of the nonprofit D.C. Vote, said taxpayer funds should not be spent on an investigation of a local issue.

“Chairman Darrel Issa’s decision to spend American taxpayer dollars investigating a local D.C. issue is unnecessary,” Zherka said.

Doxie McCoy, spokeswoman for the mayor, said Gray and his administration plan to fully cooperate with the investigation, but declined to say how the investigation would affect Gray politically.

“Well, it’s mainly a distraction,” John Sides, a political science professor at GW, said of the probe. “[Gray] now has to spend time and energy protecting his image instead of improving the District.”

Sides added that Gray might currently be at an advantage since he is only at the start of his term and if the allegations are proved false, the public might forget about the scandal before the next election.

School of Media and Public Affairs professor Mark Feldstein said the incident is reminiscent of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and his corrupt administration.

“This is a disturbing start to Gray’s term and I fear it suggests a return to the old-style machine politics that Gray learned when he worked for then-Mayor Marion Barry, whose administration was riddled with corruption,” Feldstein said.

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