At-large Councilmember David Catania says Mayor Vince Gray has become a “joke” who should resign from office if he loves the city as much as he says he does.

“The mayor has been reduced to a joke. He is a laugh line. He is an embarrassment,” says Catania. He adds that the “heat” from an ongoing federal investigation, which has already secured three guilty pleas from aides associated with the Gray campaign, has made it impossible for Gray to govern effectively.

Catania’s comments come a day after federal prosecutors said an illegal shadow campaign corrupted the 2010 mayoral election in Gray’s favor. Catania, who was one of the first councilmembers to call for disgraced former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. to resign, is the first councilmember (and maybe the last) to call for Gray to leave office. Gray said today he has no plans to resign.

Prosecutors haven’t said whether Gray, who has not been charged with a crime, knew anything about any illegal campaign activity. But Catania says Gray needs to go regardless of whether he knew or not.

“I can’t say that enough: It does not matter,” Catania says, adding that any notion that Gray was the unwitting victim of corrupt friends who operated an illegal campaign without his knowledge is a nonstarter.

“That logic would have had Watergate forgiven and expunged,” he says.

Catania also took issue with a statement Gray made today at a news conference: “This is not the campaign that we intended to run,” Gray said. That’s the language of a victim, says Catania, not a leader taking responsibility for a messed up campaign. “For Christ’s sake, that’s the most ridiculous, ridiculous line….Who is ‘we?'”

Catania has long been critical of a $7.5 million settlement the Gray administration agreed to with the health insurance company owned by Jeff Thompson, who prosecutors say (though not by name) funded the illegal shadow campaign. Catania speculated a few months ago that Thompson was highly motivated to put Gray in office in order to help with his city contracts. While pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy in federal court yesterday, Thompson associate Jeanne Clarke Harris said Thompson backed Gray because he would have “serious contractual problems” if Adrian Fenty had won the election. Catania also initiated an audit of Thompson’s healthcare contracting, which found several examples of Thompson overspending city money. After Fenty’s pugnacious attorney general, Peter Nickles, sued Thompson, he agreed to pay the District back $12 million.

Catania, who has accepted thousands in campaign contributions from Thompson and his associates, says that when Thompson gives you money, he makes sure that you know he’s given you money.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery