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Mayor Adrian M. Fenty had a press conference this morning, but something was missing: That would be Lateef Mangum, official photographer for four District mayors. He was unceremoniously fired Friday evening by Fenty aides.

“I was working at the pleasure of the mayor,” said Mangum, a press conference fixture and friend to legions of city hall reporters. “I’ve had almost 15 great years of working in the mayor’s office. I really enjoyed the work and the great people I’ve met over the years, and I really can’t ask for more.”

Mangum’s been the official mayoral photographer since 1994, when he started shooting Sharon Pratt late in her term after a presentation he put together while working at D.C. General Hospital caught her eye. Marion Barry kept him on after he beat Pratt, and Anthony A. Williams enjoyed his services for eight years. Mangum was ready to exit government service once before, when Williams’ term ended in early 2007. At the time, Williams offered Mangum three months’ severance if he wanted to leave. He took it, prompting a Washington Post profile by Elissa Silverman.

But Fenty ended up begging him to stay on. “I said I’d be glad to come back under one condition: no evenings or weekends, unless it’s a very special event,” he remembers. “They agreed, so I started doing my thing with Fenty.”

Mangum, 59, got the news Friday evening from communications director Mafara Hobson and aide Sara Lasner. The news came as a surprise, he says, and he was given no reason for his termination. “I guess they want someone to cover him on weekends—-track meets or whatever,” he says.

Hobson declined to comment on Mangum’s departure. LL suggested a platitudinous line for her—-you know, something like, “On behalf of Mayor Adrian Fenty, we thank him for his service and wish him the best.”

Nope: “I don’t know legally if I can do that,” she said. She promised to check with legal counsel and perhaps get back to LL with a quote.

Mangum says he’s been given severance, “but it’s not three months.” He says he’s looking forward to doing freelance work, including possibly traveling to New Orleans.

His final pictures are now posted on the District’s home page. “It’ll be interesting to see,” Mangum says. “Those are my last pictures; anything afterward you can always compare to see if the quality’s gone up or down.”

Photo By Darrow Montgomery