City Desk

Dominican Mayor Says $11,000 Paid for Trucks That Never Came

A heretofore mystery man in the fishy fire truck affair has spoken: Vladimir Céspedes, mayor of the Dominican Republic city of Sosúa, told reporters today about the caper that has generated a great deal of political heat in this town.

Turns out it's not just this town. Céspedes, through a translator, tells LL that he has his own political problems: His own city council wants to know what happened to the $11,000 in city money he paid expecting a fire truck and ambulance in return—not a small amount in a city of 50,000 that has a municipal budget totaling $100,000 per month. There was no written contract, he says, just a receipt from the shipper.

"Not only they, but I want the money back," Céspedes says.

That money, he says, was paid in cash to Sinclair Skinner, friend and political associate of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, in the expectation that the funds would finance transport of the rigs to Sosúa. Skinner, Céspedes explained, has presented himself as being very close to Fenty.

Skinner and David Jannarone, the mayoral director of development, Céspedes says, visited him in Sosúa "three or four times." He'd welcome them at city hall, he says.

The trucks made it as far as Miami before political pressure led the Fenty administration to halt the transfer. Céspedes said he felt "very bad" when he heard that the deal blew up. "We need that equipment to save lives in our poor country," he said.

What Céspedes explains jibes with testimony from Ronald Moten of Peaceoholics, the group serving as a middle man between D.C. and Sosúa. Moten testified in June that Skinner had handed him an $11,000 check drawn on Liberty Industries, a concern owned by Skinner, then had turned around and used those funds to pay for the trucks' transport. But it was not clear from Moten's testimony whether the funds were paid by the Dominicans or by the D.C. folks.

His account also aligns with that of William Walker, head of a local nonprofit who has presented himself as the mastermind of the donation. He appeared at the press conference today (on left in photo), saying that he remained hopeful that the transfer could be completed and that cultural exchange between the cities could continue.

Céspedes yesterday evening told his story to D.C. councilmembers investigating the equipment transfer. He is scheduled to speak to an investigator from the Office of the Inspector General this afternoon. Yesterday, Céspedes and Walker visited the city's property yard in Northeast to view the trucks.

The revelations came after a press conference in the lobby of the Westin hotel off Thomas Circle, which had been organized by good-government advocate Dorothy Brizill. Brizill says she arranged the trip for Céspedes and his translator and counsel, Jorge Espaillat, going so far as working with Eleanor Holmes Norton's office to secure visas and soliciting donations for hotel and airfare. Brizill says she paid for their lodging but hopes to be reimbursed from D.C. Council funds meant for witness expenses.

Céspedes wasn't the only player in this saga to be deposed by councilmembers yesterday. Jannarone sat for questioning, as did Walker.

Skinner has yet to be questioned. Council staff are still negotiating with his attorney, A. Scott Bolden, to set a date and terms.

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  • Q™

    Glad you could take your eyes off Barry to find this one. No video of the Jannarone's deposition from OCT? No details of the questioning? LL, I know you were twittering about the Council Budget hearing, but I'm sorta surprised you didn't get any details from this yesterday.

    Unfortunately, I'm not so certain that either Mayor Cespedes or Dorothy Brizill will get their money back anytime soon. While Dorothy is a known do-gooder/thorn-in-the-side, how come Cheh and Evans couldn't arrange for the travel for the Cespedes and his translator. Working through EHN's office sounds strange, but has a ring of Congressional Oversight to it. Anyways, much like others are looking forward to the "Barry Non-profitgate", I'm looking forward to hearing how this "investigation" is going to pan out...prior to the Council's recess.

  • John

    We were all warned about Skinner.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Let's hope Mayor Cespedes marches down to the US Attorney's office & files a complaint. Let's see if that thug Moten can squirm his way out of this one.

    I'm shocked! Totally shocked! Nonprofits in DC connected to thievery? How shocking!

    This town is full of thugs, thieves, racists [black, white, & other], & idiots. Is there anywhere on Earth more thuggish, more corrupt, more racist, more idiotic? Answer: no.

  • Boo

    11K in cash... Hide the paper trail? This is getting interesting - Keep it up Cheh/Menderson!!!

  • Skipper

    Rather interesting role Dorothy Brizill is playing in this.

  • fedupcitizen

    keep it up mendelson you'll have my vote.

  • downtown rez

    So, the DR was going to pay transport for the donated vehicles so DC citizens wouldn't get stuck with the cost?

  • KCinDC

    Downtown Rez, if that's what was happening, it might have been a good idea to let people know. Maybe it even would have made people feel better about the whole deal. Makes you wonder why instead it was decided to keep things under wraps.

  • downtown rez

    Keep it under wraps? How? By publishing it in the DC Register? 'Cause, if memory serves, that's what they did.
    No, they didn't engage in a protracted public dialog, or hold a joint DC/DR presser over the donation of these surplussed vehicles, but they didn't exactly *hide* it either.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Rez, did they publish the money trail? No. This is more thievery, & while you may be so corrupt you don't care, the honest citizens of the District do care. You can yawn all you want, but I'm sure the citizens of the DR town who were ripped off by the thug Motley aren't yawning now. Apologists for Barry, Motley, & the other thieves - e.g., you & "Q" - are worse than the thug-thieves. I hope you get your just desserts - & soon, since you're probably in the scam as deep as the other thug-thieves.

  • downtown rez

    Hey, Mad Al, in the end your supposed point about "money trail" comes down to mechanism. This is because no graft or quid pro quo has been credibly alleged, let alone brought to light. Hence, no crime.
    What we have is attempt to make political hay over DC resources (surplused) directed out of DC. But this was all up front and, if the DR feels ripped off, point them to the folks who stopped the transaction mid-action. Regardless, I'm sure they'll get their money or their surplus trucks.
    "Honest, corrupt", yeah, right. Your madness blinds you to the meaning of those concepts.

  • Mt Pleasant

    Rez.... if you don't consider this corruption then explain why so many residents are up in arms over it? Is everyone else crazy while you're the only sane person here?

  • Skeptical

    Ah, but will Cheh be impartial in the case of David Jannarone? After all, a campaign staffer and good friend of Cheh's working for a developer sidled up to Jannarone and tried to finagle a deal to sell off public land through Jannarone's office to the developer. And guess who had recently worked for that very same developer before working for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development? Why, none other than David Jannarone! Let's see how hard nosed Cheh can be with her good friend David Jannarone....

  • Pingback: Burgemeester Sosúa wil zijn geld terug « Dominicaanse Republiek Forum

  • Downtown Rez

    Mt P- Don't ask me to explain why others think as they do. Rather, explain clearly and precisely where the graft/quid pro quo etc is in the whole affair. In short- who in DC gov benefited and how?
    Without resorting to salacious and unfounded speculation over prostitution etc, that is.

  • Terry Miller

    Downtownres: The publication of the notice in the D.C. Register was one page and simply stated that the Office of Property Management could donate surplus property to Peaceaholics. I looked over the notice myself and it was actually very badly drafted and technically incorrect, and I have some experience with these things. I question how it ever got through legal sufficiency review. Maybe it didn't.

    It took some sleuthiing from Dorothy Brazil and the media to find out that it was an ambulance and a fire truck headed for the DR. That is not transparent. That is not open. That invites questions about the purpose and the ethics of the transaction.

  • Downtown Rez

    Wake me when there's some real news, or this is over.
    One or the other please.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Rez, why does this bother you so much? Were you in on the scam? Money was stolen - further investigation will reveal who ended up benefiting from the scam.

    Right now it looks like Motley, Skinner, & Jannarone stole the money. Which of the thieves are you connected to?

  • KCinDC

    Apparently as long as the details of the corruption aren't immediately obvious without investigation, any sort of funny business is fine with Downtown Rez, despite the lack of any explanation for why the transaction was carried out in such a strange and secretive manner. Some of us would prefer that *all* suspicious use of DC government funds be investigated, no matter which politician is behind it.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Poll: Is Rez (a) Motley, (b) Skinner, or (c) Jannarone? I vote for (b) - Rez is Skinner.

  • Downtown Rez

    Oh, I'm fine with the questions, I only meant to ask I be woken when it's over.

  • DC taxpayer

    Al, I'm going to go with (d) "All of the Above"

    To also include Fenty and Mo...