Vincent Gray talks with Lorraine Green on April 24, 2010, as he announces… (MARVIN JOSEPH/WASHINGTON…)
The day after Vincent C. Gray won the District’s mayoral Democratic primary last year, campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green took over.
In the next few months, protege Gerri Mason Hall became the mayor’s chief of staff, making $200,000 a year — exceeding the city’s salary cap.
Green’s daughter was hired as a senior communications manager in the city’s film office.
A former business associate and campaign consultant, Howard Brooks, was paid $44,000 in campaign fees. Green and Brooks were involved in a failed bid to operate the city’s computerized lottery.
Green was, by all accounts, the most influential person around the mayor, but if Sulaimon Brown is to be believed, her powerhouse role might have begun months earlier, with a phone call.
To hear Brown tell it, he called her June 24 to ask for help. He was challenging Gray in the Democratic primary, making a name for himself attacking Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and running out of money. Brown said Green told him to meet her at her office in Union Station, where she worked as Amtrak’s vice president for human resources. It was then, Brown said, that Green gave him the first of several payments.
Gray, Green and Brooks have disputed Brown’s allegations, and The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify any payments.
What is not disputed is Green’s close and long friendship with Gray, which began when they were employed by the District and gives her direct access to the mayor. Twenty years later, she is at the center of Gray’s tumultuous first three months in office, swirling in criticism of cronyism and nepotism — including the hiring of children of campaign staffers and salaries that exceed city limits — while his administration is responding to inquiries from federal authorities and the D.C. Council.
In interviews with more than a dozen sources connected to the Gray campaign, Green is described as either an accomplished high-level manager who performed exceptionally during the campaign, or a political operative who consolidated power the day after Gray’s primary victory by pushing aside campaign professionals in a grab that benefited her friends.
“It was: ‘Thanks. We’ll take it from here,’ ” said a former campaign consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly criticize Gray. “People were feeling shut out. . . . There was this small group of people all traceable to one person.”
Green, who declined to be interviewed, has denied doing anything improper.
Her attorney, Thomas C. Green, no relation, took issue with any notion that his client’s management should be blamed for the “missteps in the Gray Administration” after he took office. In an e-mail reply, he stressed that his client was a “part-time volunteer Transition Chairperson” and that Gray also had a “full time paid Transition Director.”
He said that in her volunteer role she did not vet or interview job candidates, establish salaries or “recommend the hiring of her own daughter” and that these responsibilities regarding transition staff were handled by the transition director, Reuben O. Charles II. He said she was responsible for making recommendations to the mayor-elect about the structure of the policy transition teams and their chairmen. She was also “responsible for coordinating the Inaugural activities, which were flawlessly executed,” he wrote.
Charles did not return requests for comment.
The criticism generated by Brown’s allegations has been as loud as it has been relentless, including from Gray campaign consultant Johnny Allem, who said Green must limit her involvement to soften the impact on the administration. “This is a mayor who’s got an awful good heart, high standards and high ethics,” he said. “I just quietly hope she goes into the woodwork.”
Such harsh words — publicly and privately — from Gray’s supporters and critics are not what they expected to say about Green, a 65-year-old personnel executive who until Friday was vice president at Amtrak. Somehow, they say, the gravitas and common sense she has displayed professionally — from city government to the administration of President Bill Clinton as his two-time pick for deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management to the executive ranks at Amtrak — didn’t translate when she had to lead Gray’s campaign and transition.
“I don’t think she did anything illegal. I don’t think she did anything unethical,” said a D.C. Democratic operative who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly criticize the mayor. “The most astonishing thing is her lack of political judgment and his trust in her judgment.”
Gray declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that he has known Green for more than 20 years and was impressed with her appointments to Clinton’s Cabinet, her long career and her love of the city.