Hill Rag: Skinner’s Firm Hired Out Survey Work, Pocketed Markup
As teased in this morning's LL Daily, there's a very important story in a not very Web-accessible place. That would be the Hill Rag, which has a story in this month's issue detailing how Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's parks contracting scheme benefited friend Sinclair Skinner (pictured) to the tune of "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for what appears to be little actual work.
Reporter Hunter L. Gorinson describes a scheme in which Banneker Ventures—owned by another Fenty ally, Omar Karim—awarded surveying subcontracts to Skinner's firm, Liberty Engineering & Design, for unusually high prices. Liberty, "unqualified to perform the surveys directly," in turn engaged a Hyattsville engineer to do the actual work at below-market rates. The difference, it seems, was pure profit.
Why wasn't Liberty qualified to do the work itself? Simply put, Gorinson reports that neither Skinner or his two employees are licensed to perform surveys in the District. So Liberty contracted the work out, to Currie & Associates LLC of Hyattsville, Md. But Currie's name was to appear nowhere on any of the documents it produced.
"The whole idea as far as I understand was for [Liberty] to present themselves as surveyors. I was not supposed to be mentioned anywhere," firm principal Anthony Currie told Hill Rag, adding that this was "definitely not standard practice."
For instance: Liberty employee Abdullahi Barrow sent an e-mail to Currie last June making a request: "Could you resend Rosedale with Liberty Logo[?]...If you dont have the Logo let me know, I will send one."
The prices charges by Liberty for the survey work also raises questions. Hill Rag engaged a third-party surveyor, Jasper Ken West, to look at the work requested for one project, Park View Rec Center. A site survey, West estimated, should cost about $15,000, and a "competitive" bid would be within 20 or 30 percent of that. Liberty Engineering, it turns out, was paid $46,800 for the Park View survey; Currie estimates he made no more than $8,000 for doing the actual work.
For 11 parks projects, Liberty Engineering & Design was paid $358,000. On top of that, Banneker was paid more than $32,000 in consultant markups. All told, Currie told Hill Rag he was paid no more than $70,000 for the work he did.
And then there's the final insult: Liberty stiffed Currie on payment in November, after the parks scheme blew up in the press. Currie then hired a collections service, and was subsequently paid in December—only after the D.C. Housing Authority processed a controversial Christmas Eve payment of $2.5 million. He got
only one-third of what he was owed everything he was owed, but had to give up one-third to the collections agency.
Currie told Hill Rag that he "didn't make any money" off of the D.C. parks work. "These guys used me," he said.
He added: "I don't know what else I can do, but I'm ready to testify. These guys need to go down."
Skinner is scheduled to appear before the D.C. Council on April 15.
UPDATE, 4:25 P.M.: Correction—Currie got the money he was owed, but because he had to engage a collections agency, they took a one-third cut after the Christmas Eve payment came through.
File photo by Darrow Montgomery