D.C. agrees to release depositions from lottery investigation

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District agreed Wednesday to release the depositions of three D.C. officials that could shed light on an internal city investigation of its lottery contract.

At a hearing in U.S. District Court, lawyers for the District agreed to waive confidentiality rules on the depositions of Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham and Robert Andary, the former internal affairs chief in Gandhi's office.

The three men were deposed in a civil lawsuit brought by Eric Payne, a former D.C. contracting official who claims he was terminated for resisting political pressure linked to the lottery contract.

Those depositions, however, were kept sealed under a protective order that the city long contended was necessary to keep the identity of Graham, whose complaint to Gandhi prompted the probe, secret.

"There is no one who does not know what the source of that investigation was," Brian McDaniel, Payne's lawyer, told Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson.

And although the District maintained Tuesday that it believed Graham's status was still confidential, it acknowledged that several documents naming Graham had already surfaced in the media, making the need for secrecy moot.

Although the District agreed to release the depositions, it will not be required to release Andary's handwritten notes from his investigation, though a typewritten version of those records has already been made public.

Payne argued that he needed to be able to disclose and discuss the records so he could cooperate with queries from law enforcement agencies and a congressional committee about the lottery contract without fear of violating the protective order.

A federal grand jury is among the entities probing the $38 million lottery deal, and Payne has indicated in court records that a House panel has also contacted him.

The District said in court Wednesday that Payne could cooperate with any law enforcement investigation, along with any probes by federal regulatory bodies or Congress.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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