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Dorothy A. Brizill 
Reply to Peter J. Nickles
January 15, 2007




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January 15, 2007

Mr. Peter J. Nickles
General Counsel/Senior Advisor to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
Executive Office of the Mayor
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 327
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. Nickles:

Thank you for your letter of January 10, 2007.

Over the past twenty-five year or so, I have been a community activist and journalist who has interacted with three previous Washington mayors and their staffs (as well as with the Control Board and numerous councilmembers and their staffs, including Mr. Fenty when he was a councilmember) in exactly the same manner that I currently do with Mayor Fenty and his staff. As executive director of DCWatch, a good government organization that publishes the online magazine DCWatch.com, I have attended press conferences and asked officials for information that should be made public, and I have not hesitated to ask repeatedly when they don’t provide that information or when they do not answer questions or answer them misleadingly. Yet this is the first time a government official has had his attorney write, in his official capacity, a threatening letter demanding that I treat that official and his staff with more deference or back down from asking for information that the official does not know or might find to be embarrassing.

I do, however, have some difficulty fully understanding your complaint. When you write about the candor with which members of the Fenty administration and communications staff treat members of the press, are you referring to their failure to respond to my numerous requests for information, including:

  1. the names, positions, and salaries of the Fenty transition staff;

  2. a detailed accounting of the cost of the November 6, 2006, Fenty birthday party at St. Coletta’s School and how it was paid for;

  3. the budget for all inaugural activities, including the prayer service, swearing-in ceremony, inaugural ball, etc., and detailed information about the contributions received for all inaugural activities;

  4. the salaries and remuneration contracts negotiated with Fenty cabinet appointees and mayoral staff;

  5. detailed information regarding Fenty’s education reform initiative, including the cost of and who commissioned and paid for the Parthenon Group report, “Fact-Base for DCPS Reform”; and

  6. the legal opinion of the District’s Attorney General that you claimed supported your position that the mayor could reappoint in an acting position officials subject to council confirmation who had already served more than 180 days in an interim position.

Moreover, when you refer to the respect with which members of the mayor’s staff treat members of the press, are you referring to the occasion at the inaugural ball when the director of communications refused to give me my press credentials to enter, and threatened to have me put out of the building if “I didn’t behave”? Are you referring to the decision made by the Fenty campaign, transition staff, and mayor’s office of communications not to speak with me or provide any information regarding the budget and contributions to Mr. Fenty’s inauguration, even though the request was made at a press conference at which Mr. Fenty distributed tickets to his inaugural ball? Are you referring to the transition press conference at which a press spokesperson for Mr. Fenty refused to provide a copy of that day’s press release to the reporter from WTOP?

I also have difficulty understanding what you are referring to when you claim that I am not treating members of the Fenty administration, especially the communications staff, with respect. Are you complaining that I am asking questions that are too difficult or for which Mayor Fenty and his staff are not prepared? Are you disturbed that I continue to try to get information that the Mayor’s Office of Communications does not provide in a timely fashion, even after repeated requests? Or do you think that the press should be satisfied with the handouts that we are given, ask only softball and flattering questions, and refrain from asking for additional information? It seems to me that when you are making baseless assertions, you should at least try to invent details that would give those assertions some verisimilitude.

Again, thank you for your letter. I would normally treat our exchange of letters as a private matter. However, since you felt free to provide your letter to me to the press even before I had received it in the mail, I assume that you want to make your complaints about me public.

Therefore, I am also releasing my response to other members of the press. If you intend to make any further attempts to intimidate me, please don’t hesitate to write, call, or E-mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

Dorothy A. Brizill

cc: Mayor Adrian Fenty
City Administrator Dan Tangherlini
Chief of Staff Tene Dolphin
Director of Communications Carrie Brooks

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