City Paper is not for tourists
NOTE FROM LL: This item was originally posted at 1:12 p.m. Wednesday, but due to a technical issue, it was removed from the site hours later. Reposting here in full.
Today, in a letter [PDF] to Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry and his council colleagues, Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles slapped back attempts to subpoena records related to the circumstances surrounding the firing of Grayce Wiggins, who had been the District’s rent administrator.
Barry’s housing committee had sent the subpoenas in the past several weeks demanding documents related to Wiggins’ firing, as well as sworn statements from Wiggins’ supervisors at the Department of Housing and Community Development. Nickles’ letter says the employees “respectfully decline to appear, or produce the referenced documents” upon advice from Nickles’ office.
At a Sept. 25 hearing on the matter, Nickles had promised councilmembers the opportunity to review Wiggins’ personnel records in a private session, originally scheduled for the 29th. According to the letter, that meeting never happened, and Nickles had forwarded a list of eight conditions that had to be agreed to before the file and other documents would be released—essentially, that they would not be released to the public. Those conditions were not signed, Nickles says in his letter, and before the meeting could be rescheduled, the subpoenas were issued. Nickles writes Barry that such a stance is “at odds with the earlier impression you gave me that we were going to meet to work things out in a cooperative and informative spirit.”
The 10-page letter cites a number of legal bases for the decision, including deliberative process privilege, attorney-client privilege, executive communications privilege, restrictions on personnel records, and the defamation tort (citing a recent D.C. Court of Appeals decision on the issue).