Deputy chief of staff accused of voting in D.C. after moving out

Just days after D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced a fresh start for his administration with two new top staff members, one is already under fire for allegedly voting illegally in the District last year.

Andi Pringle, the mayor's new deputy chief of staff, was the subject of a complaint filed Friday by a government watchdog group alleging Pringle violated District election law when she voted in the 2010 primary election in September -- nearly six months after she moved out of the city to Bethesda.

Pringle has issued a statement saying she had considered her move from D.C. to Bethesda as temporary and never changed her voter registration. She admitted to voting in the primary, but said she didn't vote in D.C.'s special election held in April.

"In my mind, I was in Maryland by then," she told The Washington Examiner.

Pringle said she plans to move back to the District, where she has lived for much of the past decade.

As of Friday afternoon, Pringle said she had not spoken with the mayor about the matter, but that he had been made aware of the Board of Elections and Ethics complaint filed by DCWatch Executive Director Dorothy Brizill. The elections board must decide whether to move forward with an investigation. Those found in violation of the law can be punished with up to a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

A Gray spokeswoman issued a statement from the mayor reiterating Pringle's earlier comments.

But observers say trying to minimize the issue is a mistake.

"I don't think it's a storm that they can just hope will just pass," said political consultant Chuck Thies. "People -- not just critics -- they're going to dig now. They're on the scent."

Gray and Pringle should be meeting with an elections law attorney and need to prepare for future scrutiny, Thies said.

The complaint is the latest blow to an administration still recovering from a hiring scandal that resulted in several resignations and the mayor firing his first chief of staff earlier in March.

As a result, Gray ordered background checks that employed the full force of the Metropolitan Police Department for all current and future mayoral appointees.

The background checks include criminal histories, bankruptcy filings and civil litigation for appointees. They also covered education, legal and business affiliations -- but not specifically election records.