Will Fenty change his tune on parks contracts?
In my weekly not-a-column in today's paper, I look at how Mayor Adrian Fenty has been handling questions about the $100 million in parks spending he sent to the D.C. Housing Authority.
Vincent Gray and others have made no small amount of hay of the fact that the company chosen to oversee the work, Banneker Ventures, is run by close Fenty ally Omar Karim. And Karim, in turn, handed work to fellow Fenty friend Sinclair Skinner.
Fenty, since the story broke, has insisted that the whole thing is
"independent" -- meaning that because the work was sent to the D.C. Housing Authority, which is not under the mayor's control, there's no way that he could have influenced the process.
But there are real questions about whether that's actually true.
In my piece, I highlight what happened to Bill Slover, Fenty's appointee to chair the Housing Authority's board:
By the time Slover arrived, the parks contracting process was already connected to the mayor. Of the five panel members who selected Karim's Banneker Ventures, three worked for Fenty -- one, Jacquelyn Glover, was a project manager working for the deputy mayor for economic development; two others were Parks and Recreation Department employees.
So when the deal came to his attention -- a contract solicited through a process that didn't involve bids, included an unusually high fee arrangement for Banneker and kept most control in the mayor's office -- Slover grew uncomfortable. He abstained from voting.
In November, after the arrangement was publicized and Slover learned more details about the parks work, he moved to end the authority's involvement in the contract and send it back to the mayor's office.
Some DCHA board members with ties to Fenty, including Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos, objected, and the proposal was tabled. The following week, Slover says, he spoke to City Administrator Neil O. Albert and said he would continue pursuing the resolution. Four hours later, he received a call from Fenty's boards-and-commissions director telling him he'd been removed as chair.
Neither Fenty or Albert or anyone else has explained what happened in those four hours. If the DCHA board had passed the resolution Slover proposed, the parks contract would have returned directly to the mayor's control, and Fenty could no longer claim that the contracting was independent.
Last night at a mayoral forum in Ward 3, Fenty again addressed the parks contracting. "Have you done anything wrong?" an audience member asked. "Would you make any changes in your next term?"
Fenty did not answer those questions directly, nor did he mention the process's supposed independence.
"Every contract that has been pointed out has gone through the entire procurement process that has been in place ... and each and every one of the contracts has been administered and the buildings have been built," he said. "After three investigations by the city council and other agencies, no one has put forth any wrongdoing or allegation just insinuations."
Those investigations, by the city's Inspector General and by a D.C. Council-hired special counsel, are in fact ongoing. Perhaps one of them will answer one big question: What happened to Bill Slover?
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