City Desk

Nickles: Parks Contracts Are OK After All

Late Friday, Attorney General Peter Nickles released an opinion stating that the D.C. Housing Authority is required to vet its contracts worth $1 million per year or more through the D.C. Council.

That was a nice, if unexpected twist to the disclosure that his boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, had sent $82M in parks construction contracts to DCHA in such a way as to elude council oversight. For once, it seemed, Nickles had put the kibosh on a pet Fenty project.

Today, in a one-page memo [PDF], Nickles says that's actually not true.

The contracts-must-go-to-council opinion applies only to future contracts, not ones already awarded.

"Generally," he writes in the memo, "retroactivity is not favored in the law."

Speaking of retroactivity, DCHA spokesperson Dena Michaelson noted to LL over the weekend that her agency had been seeking a ruling from Nickles "since his appointment" as AG as to whether DCHA's independent procurement authority applies to local-funded projects (as opposed to the federally funded projects that comprise most of the agency's work). That didn't come till Friday. "We are pleased that he has responded to our inquiries," Michaelson says, "and that we finally have clarity."

So, asks LL: Is this going to force that lawsuit that the council keeps threatening to file?

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  • 1967dc


  • Jamie

    "Retroactivity is not favored in the law?!?" Priceless!!

    In other words, "we will only be held accountable for breaking laws we ignore AFTER the first time someone catches us doing it."

    It sure would be awesome if that applied to everyone, and not just the Mayor's office!! I'd start by robbing banks until I got caught, and then maybe switch to homicides. It's a free pass on every law until you get caught once in DC!

  • NadaDon

    Shiiiit, I need a Consigliore like Nickles. That's gangsta as hell. Do whatever the fuck you want and then say, oh shit, that shit doesn't count cause it already happen son. And the City Council are going to pout like little bitches and do nothing. I think we finally in New Jack City. I thought Barry had us there in the 80s, but this shit is worst. Only us po ghettos yutes were hurt by Barry's City, now this is slapping those upper norteys as well... too funny.

  • Ward 5

    That settles it - i'm putting my house on the market. DC cant get any worse!!!

  • 2belinda

    Go on...say what?!
    Would somebody please stop this run-away train -

    DC residents may have, in retrospect, erred in electing Fenty.

    Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

    I am no fool and will not vote for Fenty in 2010

  • candycane1

    1967dc: That was my first response.

    NadaDon: New Jack is right! LMAO at that one

    Who ever heard of admitting "we broke the law", then put it in writing and cite the law. Then, in a matter of hours, "No we didn't. It's alrady done so the law doesn't apply. Next time maybe."

    If it's New Jack it will take more than law and order to take them out. OMG this is madness.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Are you lying now, or were you lying then, Mr. Nickles? That punkass doesn't have an honest bone in his body.

    If these were Federal contracts, the bidders who got screwed by Fenty's cronies would sue the companies who were awarded the contracts. I hope someone does that here so we can get all the information on Fenty's widespread pattern of thievery.

  • Truth Hurts

    This is bad, really bad.

  • Tired of the BS

    Vintage Nickles: "It's not the law until I say it's the law!"

  • Lea

    I bet someone 5 dollars. I Am not betting Fenty does not win his re-election.

    I am betting 5 dollars Vince Gray is the next mayor because he is in the line of sucession, WHEN Fenty is indicted and convicted.

    I bet five dollars on the indicted. And five that Fenty would show up the next day AND have a campaign event. That arrogant SOB see but his own ambition.

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  • NadaDon

    Lea- I hope to God you are right. However, the people who really run this City will never let a guy like Gray become Mayor. Gray, relative to most politicians, is a fairly straight arrow (that's not to say he does not have his faults or questionable practices). He would do more for this City than any Mayor ever has. However, do you think the Fenty backers, wealthy developers, business-owners, darth-vader types, would ever allow someone to step into the Mayoralty without their approval? This City is run by the wealthy, has been run by the wealthy, and will continue to be run by the wealthy. If I didn't have any morals, I would have done been a politico in the District.

  • proballdc

    Hmmm. Dena Michaelson is either incompetent or playing stupid (maybe not playing). The city's legal position on city contracts and quasi-independent agencies was put on the books in 1996. According to the 1996 opinion of the D.C. Corporation Counsel (now called Attorney General) when this issue came up THEN it was concluded that even a quasi-government agency, such as the Housing Authority, must get council approval for contracts above $1 million.

    That the Housing Authority is stating that they were "seeking a ruling as to whether DCHA’s independent procurement authority applies to local-funded projects" does not hold water, a "legal sufficiency" review by their general counsel would have answered that question based on the 1996 conclusion.

    Dena should keep her mouth shut before she gets DCHA into a whole heep of legal trouble. She puts her foot into it every time she opens it.

    The Fenty Administration is attempting to provide them with cover, but there is none.

  • Gossipidty

    Look, I don't mean to offend anyone, but please spare us all the legal wranglings when commenting. We all know that shit doesn't make any sense. I don't need a history of case law when I'm reading about how stupid Nickles and Fenty are. If I support them, I won't care what was the legal precedents, and if I oppose them, I'm way to cynical/lazy to do anything with this information. Just bash the hell of them or other commentators, that's the only reason I read this section.

  • proballdc

    Gossipidty, unfortunately, when DCHA's spokesperson is suggesting that there is no legal precedent to the issue of locally funded contracts and quasi-independent agencies, facts to the contrary become imperative.

    If you can't read what they are doing. They are attempting to hoodwink the public into thinking that this is a new issue and, thus, the 82 million dollars in contracts illegally granted should be allowed to continue unfettered.

  • Gossipidty

    Prob. I understand completely. I'm not disagreeing with you. But it doesn't matter. It sounds cynical, but unless the Council or anyone with the proper authority is willing to explore this further, whatever we say is just conjecture. I really just want to hear about what a douche these guys are, how they are closeted pedophiles, nazi sympathizers, sold their souls, have druken frat style orgies on the City dollarss, because it's the only entertainment I'll get from this fucking sad state of affairs. No one is doing a damn thing and all the legal experts on here are just fueling a fire in the middle of the sahara.

    We all see what they are doing but I prefer Bishop Jackson's style of democracy, arm yourself with little to no facts and argue baseless, pointless dribble untilt he cows come home son.

  • Tired of the BS

    Somebody told her agency what to do, they did it, now they're accused of breaking the law. So they go back to the source and ask for a CYA legal opinion. Which the source decides not to provide -- perhaps because his perverse sense of humor suggests to him that it would be fun to watch the Council forced to choose between shutting down or delaying these projects where they'd hoped to be cutting ribbons during this election cycle. Let's call their bluff, he chuckles. Or perhaps he figures out that quasi-independence means he can cut DCHA loose and let it be the scapegoat. Or both, I mean, hell, either way he wins.

    But then someone says what if the Council does tube these contracts? They're pretty angry right now and who knows WTF they might do -- they have a track-record of taking revenge in ways that are counter-productive. At which point we get sued for breach of contract. Because the city followed your opinion. Ever think of that? Oops, no. Never mind.

  • proballdc

    Tired of the BS, nobody told DCHA to enter into illegal agreements with local funds, and if they did, it is DCHA's responsibility to refuse to do so. To move forward knowing this, is criminal. Remember, they are proudly a quasi-independent agency. They should have sought a "legal" opinion by way of a legal sufficiency review of these contracts from their OWN general counsel who could have told them that they were illegal based on existing opinion.

    Best case scenario, cease and desist work on these projects pending a review of their legality. Pay for services rendered and, if necessary, resubmit these agreements for public bid to protect the integrity of the city's procurement statutes. I don't think the people will demonize the council for protecting the laws of the city. The demon wears a sweat suit.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Laws were violated. What is the punishment? Only in DC would there be no punishment.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    End the Imperialistic War in Afghanistan! Outlaw all religion-superstition throughout the world! Eliminate racism, sexism, & discrimination of all forms! Nationalize all banks & the means of production!

    & welcome to the Communist Paradise, comrade; welcome.

  • Tired of the BS

    Note when the contracts were signed -- a week after DCHA's Executive Director resigned. And note who is in charge of contract approval for DCHA -- the DCHA Board of Commissioners which got 3 new Fenty cronies -- Bill Slover, LaRuby May, and Anthony Wash in May (and, of course, there's ex-officio member Valerie Santos to do his bidding).

    So, yeah, someone at DCHA is responsible, but it's presumably not Dena the spokesperson or the interim ED (who didn't take the job until after the contracts were signed). I'd start with the Board -- whose job it was to vet the contracts. And also I'd look hard at DMPED which, presumably, is acting with the blessing of the City Administrator. DMPED is the agency that transferred funds to an agency that it thought would not be subjected to Council oversight.

    DPR is a harder call -- given the inexperience of its last two heads, I can imagine relatively innocent scenarios by which they transfered capital project to DMPED (whose contracting procedures were subject to the same Council review as their own).

    But if we don't see Clark Ray, Michael Kelly, the recently-appointed DCHA Board of Commissioners, and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development called to testify before the Council, they aren't seriously pursuing this investigation.

    Re Chuck Ruff's 1996 opinion -- it was just that -- an opinion. (No doubt, a more intelligent and more ethical opinion than any Peter Nickles would produce). I thought I'd read that DCHA had been asking OAG since May for legal advice and had been blown off. Perhaps they did consult their own counsel who likely would have said it's iffy, but there's a new regime in town -- at which point a logical response, especially if they were being pushed to do this by the Mayor, would be to go to OAG. When OAG failed to produce an opinion, DCHA should have resisted, but here we're back to who is DCHA? The timing of the deal makes me wonder whether Kelly resisted and, once he was out, some flunky signed, and the Board was happy to rubber-stamp.

    If there's a masterplan here, though, it's not DCHA's -- it's the Mayor's/the City Administrator's/DMPED's/OAG's -- they've been calling the shots. But the Council may well be too chickenshit to stand up to DMPED because Santos had all the developers (aka contributors) lined up in support of her confirmation and because Gray told Kwame he's lose the Chairmanship of Ec Dev if he didn't make things happen.

    As someone pointed out in another thread, these are the same parks projects various CMs have been touting as their own accomplishments, so I don't see cease and desist orders in their future. But, hey, I could be wrong. The Council moves in mysterious and generally effed-up ways.

  • Gossipidty

    No one in this City has any balls anymore. The reason Fenty is even allowed to do any of this is because circumstances enable him to do whatever the fuck he wants without needing to be accountable for any of it. Look at the laundry list of shit this fool has done to the City. It's on par with Barry's. The only problem is that the people who are reaping the benefits from it are the wealthy, his frat buddies, and friends of his wife. Transparency does not exist in DC politics.

  • iagreewithu are on the mark!!! This bald wonder and his aging asshole are fingering the city council on a regular basis and those fools just bend over automatically as if they are enjoying it.

  • Marciela

    @Nadadon: We ALL need a consigliere like Nickles. He reminds me of the Teflon Don John Gotti. Even he went to prison.

    @Ward 5: You don't need to leave the city. Fenty and his crew do.

    It is a damned disgrace that Fenty operates with impunity to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. It is odd he hasn't been investigate by the feds as he and the majority of his administration should be. Here's how I see it:

    disappearing Pershing Park evidence,

    the current "police chief" invents the hogtying process and happily demonstrates it to people (that is still a WTF to me,

    contracts to his frat brothers,

    funneling contracts through one agency for another,

    frat brothers giving away fire truck and ambulance to a RESORT TOWN,

    refusing to follow through with the Tax Office Scandal when the city could have recovered a lot of money in the process,

    traveling almost as much as Michelle Rhee but to do triathalons and take trips to foreign countries,

    pulling a Mark Sanford and disappearing for a while -- it was the same in principal,

    purchasing red velvet cupcakes and drinks among other things with a city grant, then putting the money back when you get caught,

    friends driving city vehicles illegally,

    building a four million dollar glorified bike rack (WTF),

    putting his children in whatever school he wants without respect to the rules,

    allegedly smacking his wife around,

    responding to people when they ask him why he does things with the spoiled brat response: "because I'm the mayor." Duh, we all know and want to change that,

    stealing from old people in the first place and not being held accountable,

    not working well with others, a thing most people learned to do in kindergarten. He is not a good example of DCPS when he was a kid,

    just being mean, spiteful, petty and vindictive,

    You get the point. Adrian Malik Fenty needs to go somewhere and sit down because he's just doing too much!

  • 2belinda

    Fenty was at one time the lead attorney for the DC Council Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation. He knows where the bodies are buried.

    Does Fenty have something he is holding over some Council members and so they are afraid to stand up to him ?

    Or are they just so spineless, so feckless that they continue to fear a man who is and always has been a punk.

  • BB

    2belinda, wrote:
    "Does Fenty have something he is holding over some Council members and so they are afraid to stand up to him ?

    Or are they just so spineless, so feckless that they continue to fear a man who is and always has been a punk."

    Its the latter.

  • E.C.D.C.

    2belinda he won't be getting re-elected lol.