Loose Lips

Loose Lips Daily: Can It Wait? I’m Hungry Edition

As much local politics as humanly possible. Send your tips, releases, stories, events, etc. to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. And get LL Daily sent straight to your inbox every morning!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • David Gregory Gushes Over Michelle Rhee
  • Good morning sweet readers! Let's hear it for the leaves. Nothing gold can stay, a'ight? News time:

    Calling All Cars: Did the paramedics in the closest available ambulance to the South Capitol shootings purposely avoid responding to the scene so they could go eat instead? That's the bombshell allegations made in this story, by Fox 5's Roby Chavez. The fire department says the matter has been referred to a trial board, and an investigation is ongoing. "Records show in the height of it all at 7:49 p.m. the crew asked to go get fuel and was given the okay. Sources now tell FOX 5 that fuel records show the crew never did get fuel, instead they were allegedly eating. According to sources, GPS tracking shows the ambulance was on Mellon Street at the home of one of the medics, just a mile and a half from the shooting scene." Yikes. Looks like Fire Chief Dennis Rubin won't be able to coast to the finish line.

    AFTER THE JUMP: Barry, City Money, Girlfriend?; Rhee's Last Day; GOP Going Strong? ...

    Really, Again?: Another day, another allegation of shenanigans involving city money and the love interest of Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, WaPo's Nikita Stewart reports. This complicated tale (made a little more complicated by the fact that Barry's alleged girlfriend is first introduced to readers only by her last name) also involves Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who last year steered a $1 million transfer to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. whose executive director, Sandy Bellamy, is Barry's alleged paramour.

    "The $1 million transfer came to light last week after the District sued the historical society for failing to repay an additional $250,000 the city officials said was accidentally deposited into the group's bank account in June. Since then, Barry has been trying to get the CFO's office to clear up the debt. Thomas said the expenditure was not an earmark but a transfer of capital funds to the city-owned Carnegie Library.

    ...

    Thomas said he and Barry did not speak about the grant, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2009. But several government and historical society sources said Bellamy complained to city officials, including Barry, that the D.C. Public Library was slow in making the money available to the society.

    In an interview, Barry acknowledged he called the chief financial officer's office in June about the final payment. 'I sure did. What's wrong with that?' said Barry, who added that he has made similar calls on behalf of other groups.

    However, he would not address allegations by government sources that he and the society's executive director, Sandy Bellamy, are romantically involved. He would only say that he and Bellamy, who accompanied him to a gala for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, are friends. Bellamy declined to comment on their relationship.

    ...

    Thomas's transfer does not appear to have broken laws but raised a red flag when the funding arrived at the D.C. Library board of trustees.

    'The fact of the matter is, I have no idea why the money was coming to the library board,' said John W. Hill, who heads the D.C. Public Library's trustee board.

    Thomas said the library could manage the capital funds because it has procurement authority that other agencies, including parks and recreation, do not. Invoices show the society used some of the grant to pay employee salaries, including that of Bellamy, who makes about $112,800 according to the most recent available tax documents from 2008, and project management of the exhibits. Other funds were used to pay vendors for design and fabrication of the exhibits.

    Hill said the library was slow to issue payouts because of questions over society invoices that appeared to be reimbursements for work that predated the grant. Library records show several invoices were rejected."

    Bellamy counters that Hill is out to get her for unrelated reasons, Hill says that's not true. Attorney General Peter Nickles says he sued to get the money back after having breakfast with CFO Natwar Gandhi, who was fretting over the fact that his office was having trouble getting the accidental $250k back from the society. Nickles wants resolution with the society quickly, or he says he's handing the matter off to "criminal authorities." LL thinks he's not referring to mob bosses.

    Can I Graduate?: If you're heading out to happy hour today, try and find whatever bar Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is at to celebrate or commiserate her last day on the job. Manners dictate that you should buy her a drink, but since she's probably going to make millions selling a book, and is likely getting a nice severance package, maybe she'll be buying the rounds. Anyway, no farewell would be complete without a goodbye from the Post's Bill Turque, who gets to write the definitive first draft of Rhee's tenure: "Rhee is exiting the District much as she entered it more than three years ago: outspoken, impatient, apparently indifferent to the kind of tension and pushback that most in her line of work labor to avoid. What she did here, and how she did it, will be debated for years. But her signature contribution, many supporters and detractors say, was a change in the conversation. Rhee added a new urgency and righteous anger to the school reform movement, one that she will now take to a national platform. She asked how the District could compile an abysmal academic record and yet rate most of their teachers as meeting or exceeding expectations. She decreed that poverty was no longer a reason for expecting less of a child in Anacostia than one in Tenleytown. ... Although many of her achievements come with asterisks and caveats, by any standard Rhee improved a school system that was among the nation's worst. ... But there is a fragility to the changes Rhee has wrought. Elementary reading and math scores dipped in 2010 after two years of gains. Testing data also show that efforts to narrow the achievement gap separating white and African American students stalled this year. ... The changes also came, as Rhee now acknowledges, without a successful attempt to build a base of support that gave residents ownership of the changes. ... Rhee's difficulties were compounded by questionable management and maladroit sense of public relations, embodied most notoriously in her broom-wielding Time magazine cover of December 2008." Rhee was on CNN last night, saying merit pay is key to attracting good teachers. Meanwhile, a radio station in New Jersey is reporting that NJ Guv Chris Christie has formally offered Rhee a job as the state's education boss.

    Tax Me!: Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells says he won't approve cuts to the city's safety net unless taxes go up, reports Tim Craig of the Post. "When a reporter asked him if he'd support a tax increase on middle-class residents, Wells responded, 'I don't believe anything should be off the table.' ... The Fair Budget Coalition, made up of 67 local nonprofit and advocacy groups, released a proposal to set a new income tax rate for residents who make more than $200,000. Currently, all District residents who earn $40,000 or more pay an 8.5 percent local income tax. But with the city facing a budget shortfall of at least $175 million, advocates are pressing city leaders to raise additional revenue instead of closing the gap through spending cuts alone."

    Well, This is Embarrassing: Who knew Medicaid reimbursement stories could be entertaining. WBJ's Michael Neibauer reports on the District's tortured past of documenting Medicaid claims, and a new $58 million bill the city says it's not going to pay. "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in an Oct. 18 letter, called for D.C. to pay back $58.75 million it received from Medicaid in fiscal years 2004 and 2005—for charges the city cannot support. The District's Department of Health Care Finance, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare, responded days later that it rejects the bill, disagrees with the charges and plans to appeal. ... Blame for the billing blunders falls mainly at the feet of the Child and Family Services Agency, which has a history of improperly submitting and poorly documenting its Medicaid claims (as does, to a lesser extent, the D.C. Public Schools). The problem was so pervasive—threatening the city's financial reputation on Wall Street—that D.C. stopped requesting Medicaid reimbursement for CFSA-related targeted case management and rehabilitation charges as of Jan. 1, 2009. The city wrote off nearly $100 million in anticipated Medicaid revenue in fiscal 2009 and 2010. Doing so limited the risk of overbilling in the future, but CMS still wants payback for mistaken claims of the past." Man, that's pretty pathetic.

    Not Guilty!: Rest easy citizens of D.C., The Examiner's Harry Jaffe has determined that there was no corruption involved in the shady park contracts deal that enriched Still Mayor Adrian Fenty's friends with city money. "Sorry—no corruption here. Shoddy contracting perhaps. Failure to consult the council. But no kickbacks, no bribes, no underhanded deals."  NB: Jaffe once called Almost Mayor Vince Gray's mayoral bid a suicide mission.

    One Party Town?: The Georgetown Dish reports that Ward 3 Mary Cheh and her Republican challenger Dave Hedgepeth "brought their rivalry to a climax" at debate Wednesday. That sounds kind of gross. Craig also reports on the efforts of GOP candidates Tim Day in Ward 5, Marc Morgan in Ward 1, and Jim DeMartino in Ward 6. The Post editorial page also reminds readers that it endorsed endorsed Day and Hedgepeth.

    One City: Peter Rosenstein writes in the Blade that it's time to "bring out city together" by voting for Gray and not casting a write-in ballot for a lost cause. "Whether Fenty gets 1,000, 2,000 or 20,000 votes as a write-in candidate is irrelevant since he won’t beat Vincent Gray who only needs to win by one vote to be the next mayor. There is talk that the write-in will keep Gray from getting a mandate. Well, mandates don’t mean much. Fenty had one in 2006 and look where it got him. ... The nastiness of some of the backers of the write-in campaign has been sad to see. Yes, everyone is entitled to vote for whomever they choose but attacking Gray with make-believe scenarios of returning us to the past is just silliness. And some columnists like Jonetta Rose Barras must have felt slighted somewhere in the past to account for some of the over-the-top vitriol that has appeared in their columns." Was that a call out you just heard? Yes it was.

    Public Hospital: WBJ's Ben Fisher reports that the Fenty administration is strategizing on ways of keeping University Medical Center public, despite Gray's wishes to sell it.

    The Dish has more on Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evan's birthday bash the other night. Also, Evans says (emphatically, to LL) he did NOT, repeat DID NOT, have taxpayers foot the bill for city-owned buses to transport seniors to the bash.

    DeBonis gives more ink to anti-abortion candidate Missy Smith, who has no chance of winning but is running TV ads with aborted fetuses on TV.

    The Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance backs the elected A.G. referendum.

    Security tightened for Marine Corps Marathon.

    Someone keeps shooting at military buildings.

    Council: nothing

    Mayor: nada

    Kojo: couple of dweebs from Virginia.

    • Brahmin

      think Harry needs to call a lawyer--one who is not with mafia ties.
      Let me try this with his example.

      Suppose I come to Harry's house and stood out front. While there, I hire a plumber, a contractor, a roofer, and a electrician. As they start work on his house--he comes out and start screaming "what are you doing." What the contractor will say "we worked for you and now you owe us something."

      Extreme case? No

      That is exactly what happened here.

      There was no authority to grant the contract. District laws are clear on who and what body can grant contracts in DC. This agency had no authority to enjoin the District in this matter. And like those contractors that would have stood outside with the desire to be paid they are shorter than a midget on his knees.

      Contracting laws at least this one is well known to most business owners who do business with the city.

      You cannot codify this bad act after the fact.

      One defense the Bannekar group could assert is that they were acting in good faith and would not have known the District's rules on contracting. One city body looks just like the next.

      But... that would be odd given that their professional service is to manage contract through the system---so they should have known the ins and outs of the District's contracting rules. Anyone who has ever even picked up a P.A.S.S (purchasing and procurement vendor license in DC ) application knows that anything over 1 million goes to the D.C. Council.

      If the precedent is allowed to set that the authority can be granted after the fact or validated after it skirted--you will see a line of people ginning up their lawsuits to be made. Shoot I think I have 20 grand the city may have owed me. Or, people would pick easier processes and then just tweek it after the fact. Yes, sole source my cousin 2mil dollars without oversight and following the rules. Oops you caught me--well I will settle for 1 mil.

      That is not how federal and local contracting processes work.

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    • http://twitter.com/kcivey KCinDC

      Does more ink for Missy Smith mean she gets more or fewer votes? Seems like if people don't know who she is she could get some votes from people who don't want to vote for Norton and assume Smith is a generic DC Republican, but most of those people would never vote for her if they knew she was an anti-abortion activist with Randall Terry.

    • Southeast Resident

      I don't care if that is a girlfriend of Barry's. I have to question whoever let the overpayment take place. Something is wrong that needs to be fixed in that CFO shop! As bad as this city needs money! Harriet Walters is in jail, but this s*** keeps happening! Gandhi better tighten up the ship. As for not paying, the city needs to threaten to shut the Society down, if it does not pay up.

      No one gives a damn about these Republicans running for office in DC. You can't find one of them to tell you what they have been doing in the community except looking out for themselves. They would have more credibility if they had spent some time up at the big house calling out Massa McCain, Chaffetz, Ensign, etc. to give us our freedom. Hedgepeth, those folks in Ward 3 know you ain't King Fenty no matter how hard you try to keep licking his boots.

      Not having the Council review the contracts violates the law. Whoever is responsible for knowingly doing so should face penalties. It looks like Grandpa Munster Nickles got that middleman fee down to a reasonable amount. I say take the reduction and move on. Council should go after the contractor from settlement on if the performance is shoddy. Council should also stiffen the law for violation of the Council review provision, including impeachment of an elected official or employee dismissal in conjunction with a stiff fine.

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