Pressure is mounting against Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray as an investigation into a corruption scandal involving his 2010 election campaign intensifies and three members of the D.C. Council called Wednesday for the mayor’s resignation.
Jeanne Clark Harris, 75, a public relations consultant and longtime friend of Gray’s, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court, admitting she was involved in handling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a prominent contractor to help Gray’s campaign unseat incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty.
As part of a plea deal, Harris admitted she helped disburse and hide the funds from contractor Jeffrey Thompson, who had several major contracts with the Fenty administration.
News reports, citing campaign and investigation sources, have said Thompson apparently had switched his support to Gray, but the funds were hidden to give him cover in case Gray’s bid failed so he could continue doing business with the city.
Prosecutors have not said that Gray knew about the shadow campaign but that the effort was coordinated with members of his campaign. Harris said in court Tuesday that Thompson provided the money, but the plan was designed by another, unidentified person.
Harris faces up to 37 months in prison and a fine of as much as $60,000.
At a news conference to announce a green initiative for the city’s alleys on Wednesday, Gray fielded questions about the latest turn in the corruption scandal that has plagued his administration from the beginning.
“It isn’t the campaign that we intended to run,” Gray told reporters. Later, he said that he intended to complete the remainder of his term.
Council member David Catania (I-At Large), however, called for Gray to resign.
“I think the time has come for the mayor to step down,” he told NBC News4 on Wednesday.
“It isn’t enough for the mayor to say this isn’t the campaign we intended to run. It was the campaign he ran.”
Gray’s problems began shortly after he took office in January 2011.
Former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown said he was paid by Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign to undermine then-incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty. In May, Howard Brooks, 64, a consultant to the Gray campaign’s treasury and financial teams pleaded guilty to providing funds to Brown, destroying evidence and obstructing the investigation into the case and another was accused of lying to FBI agents during the investigation.
The administration’s woes were intensified by the Council’s own scandals, which have resulted in the resignation of two members – including the Council president – and the passage of new ethics rules.
By late Wednesday, Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who represents the city’s largely white and affluent residents in Northwest D.C. and who switched her support from Fenty to Gray in 2010, also called for the mayor’s resignation.
Council member Muriel Bowser (D), who represents Ward 4, a powerful ward, also in Northwest, which helped deliver the mayoralty to Gray, and who wrote the ethics legislation, also called for Gray to resign.
“I think that it’s frankly in the best interest of our city,” Bowser, who is rumored to have mayoral aspirations, told Fox 5 News.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said the calls for Gray’s resignation were “premature” and “destabilizing to the government” because Gray has not been charged with a crime.
Under D.C. law, the Council president would become mayor if Gray steps down, which would make Mendelson the first white mayor since the city won home rule in the 1970s.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. told reporters Tuesday that the corruption investigation was continuing and more charges were likely.
“The truth is going to come out in the end,” Machen said, “and it would be better for you to come forward on your own rather than wait for us to approach you.”