Gray team gave priority to politically connected in hiring choices, emails show

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Local,DC,Freeman Klopott
The team that directed hiring in the Vincent Gray administration often placed priority on prospective employees who had helped raise cash for Gray's campaign, had "political capital" or were otherwise well connected, internal emails reveal.

Among them was Sulaimon Brown, the formal mayoral candidate who was hired into a $110,000-a-year job by the Gray administration in late January only to be fired a month later when questions were raised about his past. Brown then accused Gray of promising him a job in exchange for his campaign trail attacks against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. Gray's transition team was checking Brown's background in preparation for hiring him less than a week after Gray was sworn in, according to emails a D.C. Council committee requested as part of its investigation into the administration's hiring practices.

"We are working on Leon Swain and Sulamon Brown [sic]," Ken Cummins wrote to Lorraine Green on Jan. 7, bunching Brown with taxi commissioner Swain. Cummins was hired to vet candidates for political appointments. Green was the Gray for Mayor chairwoman and has been accused of passing Brown cash-stuffed envelopes last summer.

A Gray spokeswoman was not able to immediately respond Thursday.

Alex Chi, the chairman of the Chinatown Revitalization Council, landed a job in Office of the Chief Technology Officer in February after Green and Gray identified him to then-interim human resources Director Judy Banks.

"I talked to the Mayor about this because Alex (and his wife) were extremely active in the campaign... working and raising $$$$. Is the Deputy slot vacant?" Green wrote on Feb. 4. Seven days later, Banks informed Green that Chi had the job. "Done," Banks wrote. Chi has more than 25 years in technology services and helped implement the city's massive Internet network, his resume shows.

Ganayswaran Nathan also received close attention for what Banks called his "huge political capital" in a Feb. 11 email to Department of Health Care Finance Director Wayne Turnage.

"THIS is the 'top priority' appointment the Mayor wants us to make in Health Care Finance," Banks wrote in a separate email the same day. Nathan has decades of experience in public accounting, most recently as a financial manager in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

fklopott@washingtonexaminer.com

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