City Desk

Hill Rag: Skinner’s Firm Hired Out Survey Work, Pocketed Markup

0405skinnerAs 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

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  • Stephon

    Please people are you shocked by this? I hope not! Skinner is the pass through for the Mayors "dirty" work. The Mayors brother (Fleet Feet)is driving around DC in his choice of 3 brand new vehicles since last year. Purchased by developers, using Skinner as a pass through. Blue Skye has done renovations at Skinners home as well as government employees including Neil Albert, Jannarone, Santos, etc. Do you believe that Fenty is liked enough to raise $4million? Hellll no, he is being bought off and Skinner is the pass through. Investigate DDOT, DMPED, NCRC,Convention Center Authority as well as DC Housing and you will be blown away....

  • hymesb

    Yes, enough people like him for him to raise $4M. I suspect, they like his policies even better.

    They might also realize what the District will get as an alternative. Been there done that. So, no thanks.

    Anyway, I get the Skinner thing. He seems like he had a inside track. And, his contracts were canceled.

    But why does everyone else that likes Fenty have to be "paying him off?"

  • Contrarian

    Well at least Mr. Currie is a licensed surveyor in the District of Columbia per the DC Board of Professional Engineering [ select SEARCH in upper left corner]. Irrespective of the business practices (bleeeechchch!!), at least that part above board.

    Still not sure how Skinner can own/be a stockholder of a professional limited liability company if he is not a registered professional engineer... That one really needs to be investigated...

  • Mike DeBonis

    LL looked into it, Contrarian. LEAD is NOT a PLLC, it's a plain vanilla LLC. In fact, it had originally been registered as a professional corp, and then was changed to a regular non-professional LLC.

  • Contrarian


    Thanks for the look up. DCRA's web-based records must be trailing a bit, but this gets a little tricky on the licensing site because there is an active file (L37706) for Liberty Engineering and Design, PLLC. There are other orgainizations with similar names and active files such as Liberty Engineering Services, LLC (file L34624) and two Liberty Engineering Services, LLC (files L27143 and L27166). This issue is that in order to provide a professional stamp (architect/engineer/surveyor) on a building design -- like a recreation center -- the company has to be a "professional" corporation unless you are a sole practitioner. That's the way the law works.

  • Contrarian

    Mistated -- two Liberty Engineering, LLPs (file #'s are correct)

  • proballdc

    @Stephon: You are correct. There isn't much to be suprised about here. Any right minded citizen would be outraged to know that $358,000 in D.C. tax dollars was handed out to a very good friend of the Mayor for professional services that he, the principle, nor anyone in his "firm" had the appropriate professional credentials to legally carry out; and, in fact, didn't carry out. And was done so with the complicity of the Mayor. It is textbook waste, fraud and abuse. What makes it worse, is that the funds out of which this "disservice" was paid($85 million dollars in total)were shifted by the Mayor from the D.C. treasury to a quasi-public entity, D.C. Housing Authority, for the sole purpose of doleing it out in contracts outside of legislative oversight, which was illegal. An oversight process that is expressly designed to safeguard tax spending from corruption and waste.

    The Mayor's retort: "The projects got done and on time...", well, based on the facts of this report, not without waste, not without fraud, and not without the abuse of authority. AND, not without an inflated price tag to pay his friends for work they could not and did not do. The citizens paid Sinclair Skinner $358,000 dollars to do virtually NOTHING. The contract should have been let out to a vender WITH the professional credentials to do the work in the first place, NOT a crony company feigning competence who would sub-contract it, at a premium paid by local tax dollars, and try to fake out "the people" by affixing their logo on someone elses work.

    If this is different from the Barry years, I don't see where. It is the same song from a different bird.

    Gray began his political career in 2005, Fenty, much earlier. If anyone is of the old school mentality. It would be the incumbent.

    Sorry, cant by my vote. Not today, not ever.

  • bloomingdale20001

    "Been there done that. So, no thanks."

    Please explain this statement? Because if this is something that you truly believe in then Fenty is the same as the ole guard just with lipstick.

    We are spending our way into debt and he's helping his buddies along the way.

    Has the city become so polarized that they will accept a public servant to run rough shot just because he doesn't look like those ole black folks who have been in DC far too long.


  • Indeed

    Amen, proball

  • tired

    Same for me he has to go. Nickles you too.

  • noodlez



  • http://deleted candycane1

    Skinner: Do you prefer blue or orange in prison? Or do you have a choice?

  • Typical DC BS

    Good comment proballdc!

  • Bill

    This is what all of the mayor's friends' companies do. None of their owners were experienced in construction/real estate development before fenty's election to office. Everything is subbed out.

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  • Checkthisout

    There was a fundraiser, early last year,thrown by these guys and the companies who supported candidate Fenty got contracts thru them....Check out the fundraiser sponsors of that particular fundraiser!! And then compare who got contracts..mystry solved!!