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Mayor Vincent Gray criticized for D.C. advisory board picks

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,D.C. Council,Vincent Gray,Tommy Wells

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Wednesday named 17 people to a panel that will recommend changes to the District's controversial certified business enterprise program, but his picks -- which included major contractors, developers and lobbyists -- drew immediate criticism.

"We need to pass CBE reform legislation that is workable, effective and broadly accepted," Gray said. "I have faith that this group of highly accomplished leaders representing a cross section of the District's business community will provide my administration with immense help in ensuring that we achieve that goal."

But the 17 "prominent business leaders" Gray selected -- many of whom work for companies with close ties to the CBE program -- came under immediate suspicion for potential conflicts of interest.

Long list
The 17 members of Mayor Vincent Gray's advisory panel represent an array of companies and organizations in the city:
Answer Title
Bundy Development Corp.
DC Chamber of Commerce
Dynamic Concepts
First Potomac Realty Trust
Gelberg Signs
Hines
Holland & Knight
Jair Lynch Development Partners
Leftwich & Ludaway
L.S. Caldwell & Associates
McKissack & McKissack
Neighborhood Development Co.
Prince Construction Co.
The Robert Bobb Group
WC Smith
WSC Construction

"All of these people have been working for companies

or associated with entities that have benefited from the existing CBE program. They're not reformers," said Dorothy Brizill, a longtime government watchdog. "Their sole purpose will be to protect their own vested interests, which are not the same interests of the average D.C. resident and taxpayer."

Gray, who named the panel weeks after the D.C. Council sustained his veto of a legislative package that would have overhauled the notorious program, defended his selections.

"I have a very positive view of the people who have agreed to participate," Gray said. "They all are hugely qualified people."

Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, who is exploring a 2014 run for mayor, hesitated to criticize Gray.

"I'm certain the mayor has reasons for believing that these are the most qualified, right people to serve," Wells said.

The CBE program has long been a hotbed of fraud and abuse, which ultimately prompted city leaders to pledge a revamping.

But after Gray and legislators couldn't reach a deal, the mayor vetoed the proposal that the D.C. Council approved unanimously.

Gray, however, later chalked up a significant political victory when he persuaded six lawmakers to change their minds and back his decision to veto that measure.

Gray, who has pressed for changes to the program for months, said Wednesday that he was disappointed he had not been able to reach a deal with lawmakers to make improvements.

"Am I satisfied with the pace? No," Gray said. "We had expected to be in a different place at this point."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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