Council Goes After Banneker, Banneker Sues City
The D.C. Council approved a resolution Thursday saying the city will not pay out a $550,000 settlement with one of Mayor Adrian Fenty's fraternity brothers. The mayor had previously used a "pocket veto" to stop the measure.
Councilmembers are trying to block payment to Banneker Ventures, which is owned by Fenty pal Omar Karim, because they allege the parks and recreation construction contracts were improperly or illegally awarded, and city taxpayers were taken advantage of by Karim and Sinclair Skinner, another Fenty fraternity brother.
"This whole thing from beginning to end is corrupt," said Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh.
The council also passed legislation Thursday that would allow their special investigator, Robert Trout, to seek a court order compelling Karim to disclose more details about his law firm, Liberty Law Group, and its payments Skinner.
About a month ago, Attorney General Peter Nickles settled with Banneker, infuriating some members because Trout's investigation is on-going. Nickles said the settlement was good and proper, and kept the city out of future legal entanglements.
Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. called for hearing on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Banneker filed suit in Superior Court. The complaint was not immediately available, according to a court clerk, but Nickles said Banneker is suing over the council's refusal to honor the settlement. Karim's lawyer, A. Scott Bolden, couldn't immediately be reached.
This puts Nickles in a little bit of pickle, because he's supposed to defend the city against lawsuits like the one Banneker just filed. He indicated to LL that the council will have to find another lawyer, because he's thinks Banneker has a good case and he's not about to argue against a settlement he spent months working on and thinks is best for the city.
"I can't say what I agreed to makes no sense," he said.
Nickles added the council's resolution is out of bounds because settlements fall squarely under the purview of the executive branch. Nickles said he advised he mayor to pocket veto the previous legislation and said he'll give the exact same advise to the Fenty after Thursday's council vote.
The council indicated they would just pass the legislation again if Fenty vetoed it a second time.
The real loser here is Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who is on vacation in Nantucket with his kids. Evans told LL he hasn't missed a vote in 15 years, and he's "annoyed" the council couldn't wait for him to get back next week so he could vote. (Evans said he would have voted along with the rest of the council; he's just upset about the process.) He said voters don't "give a shit" about why you miss a vote, they just remember that you do.
Thomas apologized to Evans from the dias but said this was an emergency.