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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?

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 11, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District  
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Comments

Stupid and crooked is a dangerous mix. He is not a very careful detail oriented man so I imagine there is a long paper trail that he has not hidden well.

Posted by: Fatmanny | June 11, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Mike,

Fair question. Though I think it may be a little unfair to frame it as merely an on-going investigation. The council conducted an investigation it came up with nothing other than ennuendo.

This is the witch hunt time. Something to keep the issue in the newspaper. Like the OCP investigation of Rhee right after teachers voted to ratify the contract. It is meant to tarnish.

But hey, it is an issue.

So, of course, you are going to demand to know what Gray and Ghandi discussed that resulted in Eric Payne being fired for not putting Gray's supporter on the Lottery contract. There is a lawsuit (not pro-bono non-binding smear fest)that accuses Gray of directly interfering in the procurement process.

Isn't that worth a critical examination as well? Or, was their really a Gray Sticker on your coat in that picture?

Posted by: politicalrealist | June 11, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Politicalrealist, you're partially right. It is witch hunt time, but it's actually been witch hunt time. The teachers, cab drivers, used car dealerships, Debrah Daniels, Alec Evan, Bill Slover, City Council, FOIA requesters, et al are the witches, and Fenty has been hunting them.

Posted by: starclimber9 | June 11, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Some follow up questions that may yield interesting results: Why didn't these park contracts go back to DPR? Why were the park contracts transferred to OPEFM? Who are the *subcontractors* on these contracts?

Posted by: Postnote01 | June 14, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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