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Roberts Ruling - Deposition of Gray and Graham

Roberts Ruling - Deposition of Gray and Graham

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Published by: Washington City Paper on May 15, 2012
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 
______________________________
)ERIC W. PAYNE,))Plaintiff,))v.)Civil Action No. 10-679 (RWR))DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al.,))Defendants.) ______________________________) MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
Plaintiff Eric Payne’s pending amended complaint againstdefendants District of Columbia (“D.C.”) and Dr. Natwar Gandhi,D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”), alleges violations of theFifth Amendment and the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act(“WPA”), D.C. Code § 1-615.51, et seq., constitutionaldefamation, and wrongful termination. D.C. and CouncilmembersJack Evans and Jim Graham have filed objections to MagistrateJudge Deborah Robinson’s order denying their motions to precludePayne from deposing former Chair of the D.C. Council and currentMayor Vincent Gray and the Councilmembers. The movants all arguethat the D.C. Speech or Debate Clause, D.C. Code § 1-301.42,entitles them to absolute legislative immunity from providingdeposition testimony and producing documents, since theircommunications with the CFO were integrally related to theirstatutorily-required review of a proposed lottery contract.Payne opposes, arguing that the Clause does not protect the
Case 1:10-cv-00679-RWR-DAR Document 101 Filed 05/14/12 Page 1 of 27
 
-2-officials’ attempts to influence the CFO or to facilitate Payne’stermination. Because Payne has presented evidence that Gray andGraham engaged in political efforts to exhort the executive thatwere not protected under the Speech or Debate Clause, and becausethe Mayor has not shown that complying with the depositionsubpoena would unduly burden him, the objections will beoverruled in part. Because the officials’ meetings with the CFOotherwise involved protected speech and Payne has not shownconduct by Evans that was not protected, the objections will besustained in part.BACKGROUNDIn July or August of 2004, Payne was hired to serve asAssistant General Counsel for procurement in D.C.’s Office of theCFO. (Pl.’s Opp’n to Collective Mots. for Protective Orders(“Pl.’s Opp’n as to Prot. Orders”), Ex. 1, Aff. of Eric W. Payne(“Payne Aff.”)
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1; Am. Compl. 5.) He later was promoted toDirector of Contracts and, in that capacity, initiated theprocess of awarding to one of two bidders a contract to be theservice provider for the D.C. lottery. (Payne Aff. ¶¶ 1-2; Am.Compl. ¶¶ 10, 26.) Following a fair, reasonable, and objectivecompetition, Payne ultimately selected a company called W2I, a
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The Councilmembers “do not contest the factual assertionsin Plaintiff’s affidavit for purposes of the motion to quash.”(Councilmembers’ Obj’ns to the Magistrate Judge’s Mem. Op. andOrder Denying Councilmembers’ Mot. to Quash Subpoenas(“Councilmembers’ Obj’ns”) at 18 n.1.)
Case 1:10-cv-00679-RWR-DAR Document 101 Filed 05/14/12 Page 2 of 27
 
-3-joint venture comprised of W2Tech, LLC and Intralot, whichapparently offered a technologically superior product at lowerprices than its competition did. (Payne Aff. ¶¶ 2, 13; Am.Compl. ¶¶ 26-29, 58.) However, the proposed lottery contract wascontingent upon the D.C. Council’s review and approval.(Councilmembers’ Reply to Pl.’s Opp’n as to Prot. Orders (“Replyas to Prot. Orders”) at 1 (citing D.C. Code § 1-204.51(c)); seealso D.C.’s Obj’ns to Magistrate Judge’s Mem. Op. and Order ofOctober 31, 2011 Denying the District’s Mot. for a ProtectiveOrder on Behalf of Mayor Gray (“D.C.’s Obj’ns”) at 3 (statingthat the Home Rule Act “requires D.C. Council approval for allmultiyear contracts and for all contracts in excess of onemillion dollars”).)
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According to Payne, Graham and Evans cajoled the CFO intowithdrawing W2I’s contract and caused Payne’s wrongfultermination.
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(See generally Payne Aff.) Payne alleges that he
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Payne’s suggestion that the then-Councilmembers’s role inreviewing the contract was an executive function is misplaced.(See Pl.’s Consolidated Opp’n to D.C.’s and Councilmembers’sObj’ns to Magistrate Judge’s Mem. Op. and Order of October 31,2011 Denying the District’s Mot. for a Protective Order (“Pl.’sConsol. Opp’n”) at 14.)
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The Councilmembers first challenged the procurementprocess during a Council Roundtable held on April 7, 2008. (Am.Compl. ¶ 31; Payne Aff. ¶ 8.) They apparently “opposed theproposed contract because of the involvement of W2Tech.” (Am.Compl. ¶ 31.) On April 9, 2008, during a hearing of the Councilof the Whole Budget, Evans stated that he had convinced then-Mayor Fenty to withdraw W2I’s contract and Graham “urged the CFO”to do the same. (Payne Aff. 8.) However, since Payne statedduring the September 23, 2011 hearing before the magistrate judge
Case 1:10-cv-00679-RWR-DAR Document 101 Filed 05/14/12 Page 3 of 27

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