City Desk

Why Adrian Fenty’s Parks Contracting Scheme Is an Outrage

Faster, better, cheaper.

That was the rationale offered today by the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty for why at least $120 million in city money has been sent to the D.C. Housing Authority and, in turn, handed to politically connected contractors with the faintest whiff of oversight.

The revelations at the D.C. Council hearing today shocked LL's conscience. And LL's conscience, for the record, is not easily shocked. The revelations included:

—That tens of millions of city dollars were moved around the city budget without independent review, in clear violation of the Home Rule charter.

—That the money was handed to a so-called 'quasi-independent' public concern, the D.C. Housing Authority, who in turn engaged in a contracting process that saw little, if any, legal review. For their trouble, that concern was paid $700,000.

—That project management functions were outsourced by DCHA to a private company, Banneker Ventures, that was paid more than $4.2 million to do a job—capital project management—that the Department of Parks and Recreation already employs a staff of 11 to do.

—That Banneker Ventures, in turn, was allowed to run a subcontracting process with only the faintest adherence to accepted procurement practices, with immense power to distribute millions of dollars in public money to the contractors of their choice (including, incidentally, to Sinclair Skinner's Liberty Engineering & Design). And, with the input, LL might add, of the deputy mayor's office.

—That Banneker Ventures' contract described the scope of the work to be done for several projects—in some cases costing taxpayers more than $10 million—in a single paragraph of about 100 words. (An Office of the Inspector General chief noted that the language was "problematic" and "needs to be redone.")

—That this whole scheme was created and calibrated in such a way as to elude oversight by elected officials, and that the D.C. Council took as long as it did to figure out that this was going on under their noses.

The most surprising testimony of the day came from a family-owned local contractor, HRGM Corp., which talked about the subcontracting process that ensued after Banneker Ventures was handed the project management contract. Ramesh and Rachna Butani, father and daughter, both testified, essentially, that the process was a farce—that they were given limited information on what they were supposed to bid on, that the judging process was opaque, and that there was no attempt afterward to explain why they had lost the bid.

Said Rachna Butani, "It has been unclear to me what value Banneker Ventures adds....They're not responsive....They can't answer questions."

She added: "I don't believe they are professional or capable to handle these contracts."

Faster, better, cheaper?


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  • Contrarian

    And Ted Loza was snagged for a mere $1,500.00. He obviously signed up with the wrong patron... These FOA's did him better by FOUR orders of magnitude.

  • Eh

    Curious, for sure. But not outrageous unless the contracts are way over actual cost or a faulty product/no product is delivered.
    Otherwise, it's arguably an improvement over DC Gov SOP.

  • Contrarian

    Eh, wrong...

    As Mike noted at the outset of the article, reprogramming this much money this way is in violation of the budget approval process. Reprogrammings like this goes thru the Council, typically as a ominbus corrections bill and then to Congress for final approval. That is the legal process for doing these things. DCHA may have let the contract, and the money might even be in the right account to pay it, but the money is not there legally.

    If you really want this to blow up, wait 'til Congress decides to exercise its authority in the matter...

    And if one contract for $10M is described with a one paragraph scope of work for program management of this much money, it is a piece of junk and almost impossible for any DC oversight by agency or others to establish whether the terms have been satisfied.

  • kredit

    I like the above it is good from my side and the things which have been mentioned are perfect and not require any further addition.
    Tia Smith

  • Lea

    It has already been proven through random assessments, audits and testamony that the quality of the work is not better.

    Take note some of these companies only existed for a few years and still have their training wheels on as it comes to construction.

    They are usually far over budget. Again we have a 4.5 million dollar bike rack.

    Some of the plans they are doing for 1.2 mil could have been done for 700K by more experienced contractors.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Can you spell f-e-l-o-n-y? This is fraud, widespread fraud, f-r-a-u-d. Where is the independent prosecutor?

  • Same ole song

    Faster, better, cheaper. This is the exact same rationale that that crook Suzanne Peck who used to run OCTO used as her justification for circumventing the procurement process. It's the same rationale that her successor used to outsource OCTO procurements to a private company. And now hizzoner himself is doing it.

    At what point does the city council and the mayor's office make it a priority to overhaul the procurement process so that every damn body doesn't circumvent it for expedience? That's the real outrage here. The city has a procurement process that nobody uses if they can avoid it and that's how you end up with fraud like this.

    What HRGM Corp. describes is exactly the way contracts have been awarded in OCTO for the last decade. The winners were pre-determined and they had full access to whatever information they needed. Everybody else was given incomplete information at best, but the majority of the time, no information was provided at all.

    DC government is just corrupt at its core. Hearings and roundtables just aren't going to fix it. We need a sweeping overhaul from an outside entity. The dollar amounts of the frauds perpetrated in this city of roughly half a million people are outrageous. The city council has always been inept and incompetent and now we have a corrupt mayor to top it off.

    The council members (regardless of who is on the council) have demonstrated repeatedly through the years that they can't oversee their own shoelaces. The council is useless. Tens of millions of dollars get misappropriated time and again and they always find out by reading about it in the newspaper. Ridiculous.

  • Sue Hemberger

    I'll join that chorus!!

    We've seen most of this before. The Council's been informed of most of this before. And the question becomes, what are they going to do about it, besides hold hearings and ask for an IG investigation.

    What we've seen before and where:

    The GAO pointed out this loophole in DC's procurement process (quasi-independent agencies, specifically including DCHA, exempted from DC's procurement regs) back in 2007 and said it seriously compromised the whole procurement system. I'm guessing Peter Nickles and/or Neil Albert read that report but that none of the CMs did.

    The IG investigated capital projects at DPR, many made under Neil Albert's tenure at that agency's helm, and found problems at every level (including everything HRGM complained about, and more -- e.g. failure to manage projects underway, endless change orders, people signing off on checks without authorization), leading to substandard projects delivered late and over budget.

    The same contracting issues were replayed writ small in the proposed Tenleytown Library/Janney Elementary School public-private partnership debacle, with Neil Albert and David Jannarone calling the shots. The scenario was laid out to the DC Auditor and to CMs Brown, Cheh, and Gray by an ANC Special Committee I participated in. Our main report is still available on line: While the money-laundering through DCHA is a new trick, the cronyism, the lawlessness, the end-runs around the Council, the same cast of characters, the outsourcing of all real work, and the jaw-dropping incompetence of DMPED, along with the attitude that public resources are there primarily as a source of patronage for your friends are all abundantly clear. I was shocked then -- to see it all in the one close encounter I had with DMPED -- but, as a result, I'm not shocked now. Though I am glad to have more people see what we saw because, frankly, it was beyond my imagination. Clearly, Same Ole Song's had similar experiences with a different agency. And, so, no doubt, have many others.

    So what are we going to do about it? Clearly, hearings and reports aren't enough. We've had hearings and reports on these issues before and the problems are still with us. First and foremost, we need legislative reform of our procurement system. And we need it ASAP.
    We also need clear/more detailed (and legislated) reporting requirements so that OCFO feels compelled to keep the Council in the loop. The fact that Gandhi recently joined Nickles in refusing to produce records to the DC Auditor (who works for the Council) suggests that he's not independent. In a legislative vacuum (or even aporia), he and his staff will do the Mayor's bidding. But if he's constrained (and/or if any OCFO employee who signs off on something without meeting reporting requirements is at risk), it's probably a different story. We may also need to create an impeachment or removal process for agency heads.

  • Marciela

    Here are some questions that need to be asked and answered:

    Why did DC elect a mayor who committed embezzlement to steal from an elderly client in the first place?

    For those of you who don't believe Fenty committed embezzlement, was it okay to be careless as an attorney and not protect the funds entrusted to your management and guardianship?

    Why is Adrian Fenty being allowed to operate with impunity? What bigger people is he paying off?

    Why is it okay to steal, steer, racketeer, collude and conspire with District funds to line your fraternity brothers' pockets?

    Why has the police chief made police work AHOD hours with no pay?

    Why does she continue to make disreputable statements about the Labor Committe Chair Kristopher Baumann and Vice Chair Wendell Cunningham?

    Did the police chief cover up domestic violence calls to the Fenty home, an issue of mandatory report, for a number of years?

    Did the police chief drive Mrs. Fenty to PG Hospital on October 19th for injuries sustained during one of her husband's beatings?

    If she did not drive herself, did the police chief direct another officer to drive Mrs. Fenty to PG Hospital?

    Did the police chief cover a crime in the District by going over state lines to Maryland and thereby including Maryland unknowingly in the crime?

    Did the police chief get her job because of her collusion and conspiracy with the mayor to cover up his domestic violence charges?

    Why did she and the lawless and renegade attorney general set up roadblocks in an unconstitutional manner to be defeated in court and then say she will do it in another way?

    Why are people defending Michelle Rhee for not submitting required reprogramming documents?

    How many employees has Rhee summarily removed from employment in the school district?

    Of those removals, how many are legally sound? She says she had the advice of Peter Nickles so that in itself is alarming.

    Is Rhee financially compensated for the myriad of speaking engagements she has?

    Is she aware you cannot accept compensation for duties performed during your workday if you are not on leave?

    Is she financially compensated for speaking engagements as they occur during the workday?

    On the occasions that she performs speaking engagements during the work day, is Rhee on leave?

    Is Rhee paying travel expenses for these trips for speaking engagements?

    Are District funds being used to pay for travel expenses to speak during her work day?

    All procurement contracts in excess of one million dollars MUST be pre-approved by the City Council. Singlehandedly Rhee has misappropriated millions of dollars, 9.5 million dollars publicly admitted, and in fact given money to individuals who worked for DCPS while awarding many contracts that were not approved through the city council. How does Rhee explain that?

    How many of those contracts went to Teach For America? New Leaders for New Schools? St. Hope Charter? Green Dot Schools? The New Teacher Project? Are people aware the Teach For America leader is allegedly married to the New Leaders leader?

    People are aware Johnson and Rhee are an item. How is her giving contracts or considering giving contracts to Johnson any different from what CEO Andre Hornsby did with the Leapfrog incident? How is Rhee always exempt from her wrongdoing?

    Has Rhee entered into contractual relationships to employ teachers who only qualify through alternative teacher certification? Rhee should explain the contract she entered into or considered entering into with a group in Texas when you delegated this responsibility to Ximena Hartsock, the same program Ximena Hartsock and William Wilhoyte presented in the community.

    Rhee's mantra has been “I make decisions in the best interest of children.” She prides herself on saying that she doesn’t consider adult needs. Did she at one time consider St. Hope Charter Schools, founded by Kevin Johnson, to take over DCPS high schools?

    Kevin Johnson personally lobbied each member of the Council with phone calls when she was going through confirmation hearings. The Post photographed Johnson embracing her at the end of his testimony.

    When Rhee considered St. Hope Charter Schools as a possibility for contracted work with DCPS, was it in part because she was a member of Johnson’s Board of Directors with firsthand knowledge of academics and operations?

    Was Rhee aware of Johnson’s numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with children when she decided his organization would be a good partner for DCPS?

    Was Rhee aware he avoided charges by paying financial settlements?

    Was Rhee aware an investigation into one of these incidents was suppressed at St. Hope at the time she and Erin McGoldrick, the current Chief Accountability Officer for DCPS, served on the Board?

    How does Rhee respond to the fact that teachers gave statements that performance data was fabricated at the time she and McGoldrick served on Kevin Johnson's Board?

    How could a partnership with St. Hope and the liabilities accompanied by it be in the best interest of children?

    How can Rhee claim that so much progress has been made when she has consistently lowered the score students in the District must earn to be proficient and advanced on the tests?

    Is this why she is so apprehensive and determined not to release test scores in longitudinal form as most school systems do across the nation?

    Rhee routinely hides and creatively uses funds from the community and DCPS to employee individuals. How have Rhee's multiple six-figure assistants been funded?

    Has Rhee assigned any of her management team to local school budgets?

    Is this why she eliminated principals who would have challenged her in doing so?

  • Eh

    Marciela- You are wrong to charge embezzlement.
    Here is what WP Nikita Stewart, Lori Montgomery, and Elissa Silverman (former CP LL) wrote on this prior to the last election:
    "In the Hardy case, the Office of Bar Counsel found that Fenty had mishandled the man's financial interests. The office issued an informal admonition, the lightest sanction possible, and Fenty sent $15,000 to the man's estate.

    In the Bratton case, Cropp provided documents showing that a probate judge ordered Fenty to resign from the case.

    Fenty said yesterday that he received only an admonition in the Hardy case and takes full blame for his blunders. "There's only been one case that the judge or any independent person working for the court has ever admonished me," he said. "I've always said from Day One that I made the mistake, I accept all responsibility for it, I've learned from all my mistakes." "

  • proballdc

    "Eh" is either not a District taxpayer, a Fenty stooge or a plain old irresponsible District resident.

    I watched this hearing and I do have a problem with $120 million tax dollars being moved to a "private" outfit to dole out in contracts, without checks and balance review, when the city has it's own contracting and procurement office.

    Adrien Fenty is the Mayor of the city. Including the Office of Contracts and Procurement. If that office needed to be more efficiently and/or effectively run then he could have made that happen. In fact, that is exactly what he HAS done.

    There is no other reason for this illegality other than the Mayor wanting to dole out these contracts outside of transparency. Outside of the city's own contract management review and certainly outside of council oversight. This is just very, very, bad and embarrassing government.

    Folks, Harriett Walters of the Office of Tax and Revenue over a long period of time walked out of the door with over $55 million dollars because of laxed fiscal oversight in the city. We haven't yet gotten over that wholesale theft of local tax dollars. So here, when it is the Mayor that is exploiting fiscal oversight weaknesses it truly IS outrageous.

    You just cannot give him a pass on this. We are talking $120 million dollars (that we know about).

  • proballdc

    According to Councilman Marian Barry the city has only physically transferred 6 million of this 120 million dollars to DCHA and the council has pledged to pass emergency legislation restricting the CFO from sending another dime to them pending review of all of these contracts. If the council does that, then they will have redeemed their usefulness in my mind.

  • WardQueen

    This whole thing has been a criminal conspiracy from the onset. The first order of business was to oust anyone smart enough and with the institutional knowledge to figure out what they were up to. Neal Albert has been the ringleader and the mastermind from the beginning. How else could one account for a complete idiot like David Jannarone being in charge of anything except as a stooge for his handlers? Does anyone believe that Adrian Fenty has the smarts to run a conspiracy on this level? Washington DC Economic Parthership is the operating entity with all functions of economic development having been fully turned over to them. How about some hearings about that. How about some looking into the role of Jair Lynch. Lets look at Jim Graham's real estate portfolio. This is all a part of the land grab. Skinner, Banneker are like Ted Loza in thatthey are really only the bagmen.

    Looks like everyone's favorite boogey man, Mayor Barry, may have the last laugh.

  • 1967dc

    It does not suprise me that Fenty is a wife beater considering that he is a low life scum....!

  • Marciela

    I am not charging anyone with any crime because I'm not in the position to do so. I clearly stated someone in a position of authority should ask.

    “In the Hardy case, the Office of Bar Counsel found that Fenty had mishandled the man’s financial interests. The office issued an informal admonition, the lightest sanction possible, and Fenty sent $15,000 to the man’s estate.

    Whatever the case, the financial interests were 'mishandled.' If the money wasn't missing, why was it reimbursed? I don't have that kind of money laying around nor would I return money if I didn't in fact take it. Something happened in a case where Fenty, the Accountability Mayor, was responsible for the money and he was never held accountable as he should have been, obviously not if is continuing to do the same things and condoning others to do so at a much larger level.

  • Sally

    Here's a question for Loose Lips to look into: Did the companies awarded the contracts have DC business licenses?

  • Anonymous

    "Looks like everyone’s favorite boogey man, Mayor Barry, may have the last laugh."

    Doubtful. Barry has been up to his neck in this same kind of slime for decades with his Pandora's box starting to fall apart with the Aids scandal, as well it should.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and Marciela, keep up the great revelations/questions!

    Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

    Somewhere in the Council video archives is a recording of a roundtable held by AM Fenty toward the end of his first term. The other members thought he was a lightweight and were jerking him around and Cropp wouldn't give him a committee assignment, so he did his own thing.

    On that day and several others, he was grilling the incompetent head of DCPS procurement who had been given three months to prepare, appear and explain how and why numerous non-compete contracts of $999,500 had been handed out to one security contractor (that day it was security in schools being discussed), who was performing badly.

    She had nothing to say except that she would put it in writing at a later date, as the veins in his head bulged more and looked at one point like they were about to pop. Clearly, nothing ever came of those meetings so perhaps the mayor has decided to quit fighting the system and make it work for him, too.

  • Thom

    Of course both the legislative and executive branches of the DC government are like a the rim of a bicycle wheel, in that the whole thing is dependent on the same spokes, the donors ot thier campaigns who all have a stake.

    An activist once pointed out to me, using David Catania as an example, that Catania used to be a firebrand for the people's interests when he stumped for campaign contributions amongst them. Then during the baseball stadium fight (another major disaster)he learned it was just much easier to toady for the few and reap the larger pieces of pie. This story applies to them all in varied measure.

  • Think for a Second

    To all the caring citizens and fake self-serving bloggers out there. Think for a Second. What do all of these agencies in question have in common.


    These are the mechanism's that the Feds use to get what they want done in the District (in which the members are residents).

    This isn't about Mayor Fenty. It is about Federal control of the nation's capital. And, to them, it is do it their way or get put under a review board. Heard of that before huh? How is Fenty doing on that front people?

    Balanced Budget...AAA Bond rating. This is politics baby. Don't hate the players (city council or the mayor). Hate the game...we are run by the Feds.

    The City Council knows that they have no control over this. They couldn't get an indictment if they wanted to. You have to drag Ghandi into it. If you haven't learned yet, nobody is touching Ghandi. In fact, the Mayor has no control over this. Both the Mayor and the Council are the "bag men" for this.

    The only thing the council and mayor can control is what small business' get a piece. Fenty is walled off from all of his "friends." it is them, using there precieved influence to get some edge on their competition. But non of them have the power to re-direct funds and have quasi-federal agencies do their bidding. Again, Think.

    Remember where you live before you fly off the handle with these over simplified explanations about why the council is circumvented.

    The most influencial residents in the city couldn't give a damn about them. Any one of them can hold up an peice of legislation they like.

    This is a DC Statehood issue.

  • Think for a Second

    Harriet Walters took the bullet for her boss's boss's boss. Wake up! You think they touched the tip of the iceburg on that stuff? Come on people. Don't listen to these idiots that think the local elected officials are the cause of this. This is Washington DC. Where the dirties politics in the history of man-kind are practices. You think people that.....steal 7 trillion dollars based on a fake war, give billions of dollars to banks, and are known to pay a million dollars to buy a hammer.....are going to ask Marion Barry if their freinds can get a construction. You are nuts and naive. Again, wake up and fight for Statehood instead of bashing the only people in the process that care.

  • downtown rez

    "You are nuts and naive"
    What a perfect coda to this thread.

  • maserfentyaintnogood

    Maser fenty didnot bring competence nor an open and transparent government. It was run much better under mayor williams and he did go to the Council to make his case and answer questions from Councilmembers. The corruption with the contracts is unbelieveable. If he does not have confidence in his OCP director (Mr. Gragen),that's his fault for putting him in the job.

    No more excuses, it is time for the appropriate investigations (district/federal) to commence and determine who did what, knew what and when. Maser fenty does not deserve to be re-elected in 2010.

  • jf1

    ...why do you people write so much in such an impotent forum?

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    The Post reported details on the massive theft of AIDS money. These people steal from children & sick people. When are prosecutions going to start?

    It is a home rule issue, & the District is flunking the test. We need a local, elected prosecutor to go after these people who steal from all of us.

  • jf1


    The Post reported details on the massive theft of AIDS money. These people steal from children & sick people. When are prosecutions going to start?

    It is a home rule issue, & the District is flunking the test. We need a local, elected prosecutor to go after these people who steal from all of us."

    ...what is this, South Park?

    Hasn't it actually occurred to you why all of this has happened? The same reason that Fenty and Nickles and the City Council and Rhee are all still in office right now. Think about it. Then go have a beer, sit down and watch the game.

  • downtown rez

    "you people "
    "These people "
    And I thought we had a winner...

  • E.C.D.C.


  • jf1

    If you have to explain why something is "an outrage" then it isn't "an outrage" to them *before* you explain it and it probably won't be "an outrage" *after* you explain it.

  • Ward 5

    Marciela great questions!!!

  • chris hauser

    golly, now i'm confused all over again.

  • concernedaboutdc

    Marceila, on he Hardy case, Fenty had already spent the money when he was caught by the family and reported to the D.C. bar. He was given the money to pay back the estate by Cornell Jones, executive director of the HIV/AIDS community development group "Miracle Hands" recently thrown under the bus by the Fenty Administration when he was accused of mismanaging HIV/AIDS dollars. The same man that was a notorious drug dealer in the 1980's in the District. A loyal Fenty ally.

  • Pingback: Does Not Play Well With Others: Loose Lips Daily - City Desk - Washington City Paper

  • Jacob

    Bring Accountability to Washington. Vote Anybody but Fenty in 2010!

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully, Mayor Fenty will correct his mistakes and character flaws in his second term.

  • Anonymous, too

    "Hopefully, Mayor Fenty will correct his mistakes and character flaws in his second term."

    Yeah. Right. Especially when he thinks he hasn't made any mistakes and has no flaws....

  • Nation’s Capital Citizen

    Almost to a person in DC, the skinny is that Cathy Lanier, the current Police Chief, was the Commander in Ward 4, the Ward over which Fenty as Councilmember, presided. Whenever Fenty would give Michelle a beatdown, Lanier would cover it up and send the EMTs away so Michelle could leave and go to PG County for a "fixup". Chuck Ramsey, former DC Police Chief and now Chief for Philadelphia, refused to cover the DV up any longer and that's the reason Fenty fired him. When the spot opened up, Lanier blackmailed Fenty and got her heralded spot. One of the least reported crimes in the District is what's known as "upscale domestic violence." Michelle Obama is heard to opine that she does not want him in the White House for the DV he perpetrates. Besides he is resegregating the District. He is much more in tune with racist Whites, except when it comes time to rip off the District for his frat brothers and his boyfriends. Oh yeah, I went there -- boyfriends, honey, not buddies or homeys, butt boyfriends. Just before the election gets really underway, a brother who was at a party with Fenty, has him smoking pot and snorting cocaine on a cellphone camera. This election and the exposes should prove interesting. If crack stops Barry, then Fenty shouldn't carry the day...Bad business -- bad brother -- bad mayor.
    Nation's Capital Citizen

  • noodlez

    Nation's Capital Citizen WHOA! ARE YOU FOR SERIOUS?

  • Real Washingtonian

    First of all Nation's Capitol Citizen, first of all, do not dare to take the name of my proud fraternity and shame it just because you don't like someone. You have the so called audacity or should I say lack of it to attack the Fraternity and say that he is giving out contracts to our members. That just shows that you are uneducated in the workings of this city and have failed to do your research. First of all if you were to do your research you would find that our Fraternity makes up easily more than 15% of the successful African American Males in the city and especially as it is related to local government and related industries so it is not hard to imagine that members would obtain a contract. From Mayor Fenty, Councilman Kwame Brown, former Council Candidate and two time Council Chief of Staff Keith A. Perry, former Congressional Staffer and current Council Legislative Staffer Drew Hubbard, Council Chief of Staff J.R. Meyers, Department Heads Greg Odel, Erik Moses, Lee Smith, to such successful mega lawyers such as Rod Woodson and A. Scott Bolden and award winning Columnist Colbert King. To look around Washington, D.C. is to find a proud and accomplished member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, inc.

    If you were to look at the actual contracts awarded and examine who has won the lion share of contracts which have also been easily approved by the City Council including projects such as the Forensics lab and others, you will notice that folks such as Whiting Turner, Forrester and the likes are the ones with the majority of the contracts. To come out in this median and spout such bullcrap is just shameful and irresponsible, you as an adult should know and do better.

  • noodlez



  • dpuconcerned

    How can college graduates use such pour grammar? Four years of college and you are still ignorant of your own language? Real Washingtonian, you shame your fraternity and yourself. Unfortunately, you are not alone.Noodlez is no better.

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