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Council digs into Banneker deal

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, who is out of town, was a no-show Friday at a D.C. Council roundtable on his agreement last week to pay $550,000 to settle a claim by a firm owned by a friend of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and under investigation by the council.

But that hasn't stopped the council from digging into whether Nickles had the authority to enter into what appears to be an iron-clad settlement that would protect Banneker Ventures from being liable in the future.

Council members are questioning staff of Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, who has directed his office to stop any payments until further notice.

Last year, Banneker won a contract to manage the construction of millions of dollars in recreation centers, ballfields and parks. But the contract was awarded through the D.C. Housing Authority, a roundabout route that circumvented the council's authority to approve contracts exceeding $1 million.

Today's questions: Does Fenty have the authority to give Nickles the green light to pay Banneker? Could the money be wired? If an investigation finds wrongdoing, will the city ever be able to recover any money?

There are a lot of "I don't knows."

Nickles sent council members a letter with his take:

"... while any possible fraud or illegality underlying Contract No. 2009-05 was not my focus during the negotiations, I saw no evidence of it. Had I done so, the negotiations would have ended immediately. Furthermore, if, through the Council's investigation or otherwise, it is determined that there was some form of wrongdoing, the settlement will not prevent appropriate action to redress it.

"Lastly, but most importantly, the settlement is fair and, as such, is in the best interests of the District of Columbia. For example, the proceeds will be used to pay the outstanding claims of third-party service providers whose work contributed to the overall success of the various DPR projects. Satisfying those claims will avoid the possibility of future litigation against the District."

By Nikita Stewart  |  July 9, 2010; 3:20 PM ET
Categories:  City Finances , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Nikita Stewart  
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With all these questionable contracts, was the work actually done or did the money just disappear?

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | July 9, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The contracts aren't "questionable" they were "illegal" as per Peter Nickles himself. Thus, there, in essence, wasn't a valid contract at all. The meat of the investigation. Fenty, being a councilmember himself, knew that contracts in excess of 1 million dollars, to be legal, must by law be approved by a council majority.

The contract they worked under was as valid a legal instrument as a wad of used toilet paper.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | July 9, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

But was the work done?

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | July 9, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Peter Nickles has no clue what the best interest of the city is, as he lives elsewhere. If he were paying taxes here and being represented by the D.C. Council he would have a different perspective.

I have to believe that Fenty will profit personally, in some way, for this deal. I am not sure how. Maybe his "friends" have something on him. Or maybe he has taken a cut. I don't know. But it is really strange that Fenty would choose to take this kind of a political risk. What is he thinking?

Posted by: tacard1 | July 9, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse


Let me answer that question.

YES! The work was done. And, it was done to spec.

There is no fraud in this case. There have been no laws broken.

This investigation was launched after the last one, conducted by the council, found no wrong doing.

But, that doesn't work for Gray's campaign plan. So, they started a pro-bono investigation that still hasn't found anything.

Posted by: politicalrealist | July 9, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

It will be quite gratifying to see those drunk on Fenty's kool aid, drown in defeat in September. I promise to gloat.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | July 11, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

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