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Did Mayor Vince Gray really go to Florida this weekend to tour the training facility of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? If so, who paid for the trip?
It seems like those would be an easy enough questions to get answered, after The Washington Times published a column saying as much. The Times reports that Gray went with Councilmembers Jack Evans and Michael Brown, and the purpose of the trip was to get ideas for a possible training facility for the Redskins at Reservation 13, a plot of land near RFK Stadium.
But the Gray administration is being too cute by half and acting like these are state secrets. An email to Gray’s spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd netted this response:
We all know that over the years, the city and the Redskins have always had conversations about opportunities to work more closely together. If we ever find a way to do so, we’ll be excited to share it. No city dollars have been expended on the mayor pursuing any of these conversations.
Hmmm, thanks for the non-answers. LL called Boyd, who said that’s as much information as she’s been able to get: “I don’t know anything about it.” The D.C. Council wasn’t much more helpful. Asked to confirm whether he went to Tampa, Brown says he’d like to attach himself to the mayor’s statement. Evans wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Next up is the mayor’s new chief of staff Chris Murphy, who responds with a familiar sounding refrain:
We all know that over the years, the city and the Redskins have always had conversations about opportunities to work more closely together. If we ever find a way to do so, we’ll be excited to share it.
Dear sweet Lord, why is this so hard!?
It’s worth noting that former Mayor Adrian Fenty was rightly hammered for leaving town without telling anyone, and then being less than forthcoming about who paid for his trip. Granted, Fenty took his family on a tennis-watching vacation in Dubai, while Gray seems to have gone on a fact-finding mission to check out a football training facility just in case the District suddenly stumbles on a huge pot of gold that would make building such a complex for the Redskins feasible. But the basic bone of contention remains: The public should know when its mayor isn’t in town. And it has a right to know if any outside interests are paying for him to take out-of-town trips. (Murphy says comparing the two is “crazy.”)
Gray’s been much better than Fenty about releasing his public schedule, but the alleged jaunt down to Florida wasn’t published. In fact, his public schedule for Friday shows him doing “desk work” all day Friday and then attending Dunbar’s homecoming game against Wilson. His weekend schedule was packed with events around town on both Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie says his organization was not involved in any trip for public officials down to Tampa, and the Redskins “are exploring all our options” when it comes to a new training facility.
Update: Multiple sources at the Wilson Building confirm that the trio of elected officials went to Florida on Friday. A spokesman for Evans says the councilmember paid for his own expenses out-of-pocket.
Update No. 2: A spokeswoman for Brown says he paid out of pocket for the trip, too. Mr. Mayor, your turn.
Photo via Redskins.com