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."
July 9, 2010; 3:20 PM ET
Categories: City Finances , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Nikita Stewart
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