City Paper is not for tourists
This post has been updated and modified to include comments from Lopez.
Josh Lopez, who was the Ward 4 coordinator for Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s failed re-election campaign, was hired last Monday (Sept. 27) to be a “program analyst” in the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Development, according to records obtained by LL from the CFO’s office. His salary: $72,000 a year.
Which is pretty good timing, considering the District just imposed a hiring freeze this week and budget officials announced a big deficit for next year on the very day Lopez started work.
It turns out Lopez’s stint in government was a short one. Lopez tells LL he quit after just four days on the job to go work as a volunteer on a Fenty write-in campaign.
“I looked at the number and thought there was a realistic chance of us winning,” Lopez said, adding that he hadn’t spoken to Fenty about the effort.
Lopez is described as a “volunteer leader” on the RunFentyRun Facebook page and was at Vince Gray‘s Ward 5 town hall meeting last night, where a Gray supporter says he was engaged in less-than-friendly banter with Gray’s folks. (Lopez achieved a small measure of notoriety during the campaign when he tried to disrupt a Gray news conference with a bullhorn, which the Gray campaign documented here.)
According to CFO records, Lopez’s only prior experience working in D.C. government was working in Fenty’s D.C. Council office. Lopez started as a “clerk” for Councilmember Fenty in September 2004 and worked his way up to “research specialist,” when he resigned in March 2006. Campaign finance records show he then went to work on Fenty’s first campaign for mayor in 2006, making more than $31,000. (He made $20,000 working for Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser‘s campaign in 2007, and so far has made $30,030 from Fenty 2010.)
As for that 4-day city job, Fenty spokesman Sean Madigan says Lopez was hired to be an outreach coordinator for a public housing initiative called “New Communities.” Madigan says two other Fenty campaign workers, whose names he couldn’t immediately recall, have also been brought on board since the primary. Lopez says he worked in a similar capacity for a non-profit from 2007 to 2009, and was brought on board to ensure a smooth transition (or “potential transition” as he put it) for an important initiative.
But even if Lopez and other Fenty campaign workers are qualified for their new jobs, LL doesn’t think it passes the smell test for a lame-duck mayor to start hiring his former campaign aides. Lopez’s first day was the same day that CFO Nat Gandhi briefed officials that the city was facing a $175 million budget shortfall—a shortfall that led Fenty to impose a hiring freeze a week later. The city is broke; now’s not the time (not that there ever is a time) to be doling out rewards to a favored few.
Lopez’s take on whether it’s a fishy deal: “I don’t know, you’d have to ask the people,” adding that it’s commonplace for politicians to hire people they know and trust.
He said he plans to donate his earnings from his 4-day stint as a city bureaucrat to a non-profit, possibly D.C. Watch, whose own Dorothy Brizill first brought up Lopez’ hiring at a news conference this week. LL asked if he was kidding, Lopez said he was not.