Mr. Fenty and the Banneker contract: Setting the record straight
By Bill Slover,
Since last October, there have been questions about the role of the D.C. Housing Authority in the contract awarded to Banneker Ventures – a firm with close ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty -- to oversee millions of dollars of renovations to parks and recreation facilities. Recently, my role as chairman of the Housing Authority – and in particular my abrupt removal from that position in November 2009 by the mayor -- has come under increased scrutiny. In an Aug.29 editorial, The Post indicated that it was “particularly troubled” by my removal by Mr. Fenty. It is time to set the record straight, and I have the documentation to do so.
Last week, after nearly a year of ignoring the issue, Mr. Fenty finally gave a reason: He said that D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles recommended that I be removed as chairman for refusing “on numerous occasions” to submit the Parks and Recreation contracts to the D.C. Council.
This statement is patently false. Mr. Nickles did not make numerous requests of me or the Housing Authority to submit this contract for approval, and I did not block this contract from going to the council. Under the governance structure of the Housing Authority, a vote of the full board is required to take such action; therefore, I did not even have the authority to do what the mayor claims I refused to do.
Furthermore, it was the contractual responsibility of the Office of the Deputy Mayor – not the D.C. Housing Authority -- to bring the contracts in question to the council for approval, as well as to ensure that there was adequate funding available to pay for the renovations. The Housing Authority did not – and did not have the ability to -- stand in the way of the deputy mayor's office. Clearly this office failed to fulfill its obligations under the contract; to point the finger elsewhere is disingenuous.
The mayor has repeatedly asserted that the contracts were awarded through an independent process. Not so. In fact, the “competitive bidding process” hinged on the decision of a five-member selection panel; three of the panel's members were on the mayor's staff. To top it off, the Office of the Deputy Mayor had final approval of which firm was awarded the contract. Further, the project manager's fee was negotiated solely by the Office of the Deputy Mayor, which handed Banneker Ventures a flat fee of more than 9 percent of the contract value, with an additional 9 percent markup of fees charged by each subcontractor. A Post article quoted Allen Y. Lew, executive director of the D.C. public school renovation program, as calling the fee structure “outrageous.” (Typical fees for the services Banneker was to provide range from 3 to 5 percent.) Clearly, the process was anything but independent.
But this is not just about cronyism: This is about fiscal responsibility. In an economic downturn, when the District’s budget shortfalls have forced cutbacks to schools, libraries, police and other vital city services – and when the city’s rainy-day fund has been ransacked – it is simply bad policy to pay double and triple the normal cost of doing business. To suggest, as The Post did in the Aug. 29 editorial, that the multimillion-dollar contracts in question were a “tiny” share of a much larger capital budget -- and therefore somehow not worthy of scrutiny -- is to return to the worst days of D.C. governance. It is irresponsible and insulting to D.C. residents. Just think how many additional units of housing could have been built for the money that went to Mr. Fenty’s friends. This city deserves more from our mayor.
During my tenure as chairman of the Housing Authority, I upheld my fiduciary responsibility to protect the interest and the mission of the Housing Authority and the 19,000 families it serves. And for that, the mayor fired me.
| September 10, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories: D.C., D.C. politics, Fenty, HotTopic, Mayor Fenty
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