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Probes Into Lottery Contract, CFO's Office Continue

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D.C. Council member Jim Graham still hasn't shaken questions about his conduct related to the award of a contract for the D.C. lottery.
Mallory Noe-Payne
D.C. Council member Jim Graham still hasn't shaken questions about his conduct related to the award of a contract for the D.C. lottery.

With the federal investigation into D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign likely stretching into 2013, it appears authorities are also probing how city lawmakers handled a 2009 lottery contract.

 When it comes to gambling, they say the house always wins. But it's looking more and more like D.C.'s 2009 lottery contract isn't exactly a winning hand for many of the players. 

A grand jury is now investigating the $38 million contract as authorities look for evidence of crimes including allegations of bribery, and the steering of contracts, the Associated Press reports. A number of public officials are also under scrutiny. 

The investigation is tied to a wrongful termination suit brought on by Eric Payne, a former procurement officer in the office of the Chief Financial Officer. Payne says he was fired after refusing to rebid the lottery contract.

Payne's civil lawsuit has raised questions about the role of Council member Jim Graham, who was serving on Metro's Board of Directors at the time. Graham reportedly offered to support a developer's bid for the lottery contract if that developer withdrew from a development project around a Metro station. 

An investigation commissioned by Metro earlier this year determined that Graham may have violated Metro's code of conduct but found no criminal activity. Graham delivered a detailed, and at times, emotional accounting of what happened with the contract Thursday during a hearing on the lottery contract and the CFO's office. 

"If somebody thinks that I broke a law, if somebody thinks I had an illegal financial interest, let them stand up and say it," Graham said.

But few people are saying anything on the lottery contract, the wrongful termination suit or the discrepancies between the draft and final versions of a 2008 CFO internal affairs report on the lottery deal. 

The lawyer for CFO Natwar Gandhi stonewalled many of the council members' questions during Thursday's hearing, citing the ongoing litigation. 

Council member Jack Evans, who has oversight over the CFO, said Thursday he'll likely seek subpoena power to get answers. In the meantime, he will contact the U.S. Attorney's office to get involved, he added.

"It appears to be now that somebody needs to look at this. This is not going to go away," Evans said. "The lottery contract and all of the information surrounding it, all if there were irregularities, when people try to hide things, it gets worse, it just gets worse." 

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