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Two days after Mayor Vince Gray told reporters at a news conference that he was unhappy with the pace of efforts to reform the embattled Certified Business Enterprise set-aside program, his administration announced the departure of the head of the department responsible for overseeing that program.
Harold Pettigrew Jr., the head of the Department of Small and Local Business Development, was given his walking papers by Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins and City Administrator Allen Lew last night, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak on the record. Today, the Gray administration announced that Pettigrew’s chief-of-staff, Robert Summer, is the new interim director.
Pettigrew did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
A Wilson Building source familiar with the Gray administration’s thinking but not authorized to speak on the record says Pettigrew was let go because he was taking too long to implement some proposed reforms to the CBE program that Gray announced back in October. Those reforms include plans to hire 10 new staffers who would enforce the program’s rules, which have been mostly ignored for years. Pettigrew said yesterday that he planned on having five new staffers hired by the end of next month, a speed that the Wilson Building source said was too slow for the mayor’s liking.
“I’m not satisfied with the pace of the entire effort,” Gray said yesterday. The source also says Pettigrew’s dismissal had nothing to do with a Twitter spat he had with Councilmember Vincent Orange last month.
Slow or not, LL found Pettigrew to be one of the rare city officials who did not try and sugarcoat the CBE program’s many faults or pretend that they didn’t exist. With his departure, the mayor is likely to be even more reliant on the recommendations of a newly formed advisory panel (whose membership has several questionable picks) as he crafts new legislation to replace the CBE-reform legislation Gray just vetoed.
UPDATE: Pettigrew has this to say:
I think it would be an unfortunate characterization of my efforts to place decades worth of historical problems with the CBE program on my shoulders. Reform of the CBE program is larger than the efforts that can be achieved by any DSLBD director. I am proud of my efforts to position the administration for success with managing the challenges of the CBE program, and having laid out a pathway for reform to continue beyond my time with the agency. I am thankful to the mayor for the opportunity to serve, and for the great team at DSLBD who will continue the work necessary to not only reform the CBE program, but position D.C. small businesses for success locally, regionally, federally and in the global marketplace.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery