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Nickles: Recreation contracts broke the law

Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said the D.C. Housing Authority broke the law when it recently awarded millions of contracts for recreation projects to firms that had ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty without seeking approval of the D.C. Council. Nickles advised housing authority officials to submit the contracts to the council for approval.

In a letter to the housing authority's interim executive director and general counsel, Nickles explained that expenditures of more than $1 million of local funds must go through the council, regardless of the agency.

Earlier in the day, interim executive director Adrianne Todman said the housing authority was governed by separate procurement rules.

Nickles said in an interview that he couldn't agree. He attached to the letter he sent Todman a copy of a 1996 opinion of the corporation counsel, which reviewed the same issue and came to same conclusion.

The attorney general did not place blame on the Fenty administration, saying the mayor agreed with him after Nickles explained the law. He also dismissed some council members's concerns that the contracts went to firms headed by Fenty's friends and fraternity brothers. "I have no reason to believe there was a problem with them. They were all competitively bid," he said. "The fact that the mayor has friends, has fraternity brothers and goes to a ball game [with them], that doesn't exclude someone from competing for a contract."

Council members had compiled a list of a dozen contracts worth about $82 million for the construction of parks, fields and recreation centers. Banneker Ventures, owned by fraternity brother Omar Karim, was named construction manager of all the projects. Two of the projects list the general contractor as RBK Landscaping and Construction, run by longtime friend Keith Lomax who drew attention earlier this year by illegally driving the mayor's city-issue SUV.

--Nikita Stewart

By Vanessa Williams  |  October 23, 2009; 6:23 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Nikita Stewart  
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They must have been reading our posts. Now the lawless AG who breaks and ignores law is citing them. Please! Shut it down city council. Kill the contracts. Bring in the Inspector General. Call the FBI. Get him the same way they got Kwame Kilpatrick and give him a signature color of orange!!!

Posted by: candycane1 | October 23, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

This is absolutely ridiculous! Fenty has been the biggest disappointment to hit DC in a long time. He's a corrupt, incompetent jerk and it's time the Council grew a pair and put the heat on him! I say impeach him!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 23, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

This is a new low in terms of the blame game. or maybe its only just politics as usual........ : (

Posted by: SpeakLife | October 25, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what you mean, SpeakLife. IMHO it's a cause for concern if an elected official's friends and frat brothers are being enriched at the expense of the taxpayers. It's one thing to go to ball games and have some fun, but it truly does raise suspicion when those same friends and frat brothers end up with multi-million dollar city contracts. A competitive and honest bidding process is based on all competitors responding to the same request for proposals. When a competitor get additional information or advantage through cozy relationships with government officials, the entire process is tainted. We don't know if that has occurred in this case, but it's worth looking into.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | October 26, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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