Investigations into D.C. city government prompt rumors, frustrations

By |
Photo - Mayor Vincent Gray
Mayor Vincent Gray
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A quiet, pre-holiday weekend morning for the District government ended at 10:53 a.m. on Friday.

"A big mayor [Vincent] Gray campaign advisor tells me Gray won't run again, regardless of where federal probe goes," WUSA's Bruce Johnson posted to Twitter.

The CBS affiliate soon had a story online, and the would-be scoop went viral.

The only problem: Gray, whose campaign has faced a massive federal investigation since March 2011, said he hadn't made a decision about a second term.

"I'm not even halfway through my term, so why would I be talking about that at this stage?" Gray said later. "I haven't even thought about it, let alone talked about it."

He dismissed Johnson's report as "ridiculous."

CBS soon backed away from its story, the rumor fizzled, and Gray proceeded with his day.

But the episode reflected the new normal for the D.C. government: A series of high-profile investigations has left the city's political class perpetually on the brink of another frenzy.

"The number of investigations give rise to more rumors and more speculation," Ward 8 D.C. Councilman Marion Barry told The Washington Examiner. "People want to know who's going to be convicted or who has been down to the U.S. Attorney's Office."

Sometimes, rumors have proved true. When top D.C. officials showed up for work on June 6, most seemed certain -- because of a rumor -- that then-Council Chairman Kwame Brown would be charged with a crime that day. By lunchtime, prosecutors accused Brown of a felony.

But in other instances, speculation has turned out to be wrong.

Top power brokers are divided about whether the onslaught of rumors is hurting day-to-day governance.

"I hadn't heard any of the rumors until my chief of staff told me the press corps was asking about it, so it hasn't taken any toll on me," said new Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

And Gray said the rumors don't diminish his work, even if they are frustrating.

"You've just got to go on," Gray said.

But Barry, who said he ignores rumors, warned that speculation can prompt uninformed decisions.

"Rumors are dangerous," Barry said. "They can be detrimental to political direction or a program's direction."

Barry faulted the prosecutors' pace for the proliferation of rumors, but U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. has repeatedly declined to give a timeline of when his probe will conclude.

Three people have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation of Gray's campaign.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner