Loose Lips

City Law: Don’t Buy or Lease SUVs

District law specifically prohibits the city from buying or leasing sport utility vehicles—except for security or public safety reasons—raising more questions (if that's possible) about the pricey Lincoln Navigators the city leased for Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown.

The council passed the "Government Sport Utility Vehicle Purchasing Amendment Act of 2002" in, well, 2002. It became law on March 25, 2003. It's now D.C. Code 50-203, in case you were wondering.

As you can see from the text, it's pretty clear legislation: "Except for security, emergency, rescue or armored vehicles, all passenger automobiles ... purchased or leased by the District government shall have an Environmental Protection Agency estimated miles per gallon average of not less than 22 miles per gallon, and shall not be a sports utility vehicle." (Lincoln, by the way, says on its website that Navigators get 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.)

Former at-large Councilmember Carol Schwartz sponsored the legislation, reportedly because she was concerned about the growing numbers of gas-guzzling SUVs the city was purchasing. (Schwartz was also behind raising taxes and fees on privately owned luxury SUVs in 2004, citing their outsized contributions to air pollution and street damage.)

But it looks as if this law has been ignored for a long time—long before Brown got his Navigators. LL's only been on the scene a short time, and doesn't know much about the rides of D.C. government big wigs going back the last decade. But LL does know that former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee had a chauffeured SUV (and presumes interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson has the same) and is pretty sure City Administrator Allen Lew has access to an SUV. Also, Mayor Vince Gray, when he was chairman, drove a city-owned Chevy Tahoe SUV on occasion. And former Mayor Adrian Fenty had both a city-funded Navigator and a more efficiency-friendly SmartCar (which the D.C. government still owns, and it sits forlornly on the side of the Wilson Building).

So it looks like the Department of Public Works, which is responsible for the city's fleet, has been ignoring District law for a while. LL has reached out to DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant and will update as needed. If it is indeed true that the DPW hasn't been following the law, it'll be more unwelcome news for longtime DPW Director William Howland. Howland had a direct hand in acquiring the luxury rides for Brown.

The mayor, you're no doubt aware by now, is currently chauffeured in a pricey Navigator. That contract goes through the police department, so LL supposes that there's a case to be made that it's a permissible lease because of security reasons. (Though, when LL first started reporting in 2006 and was chasing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley around the windy city, Daley was chauffeured in a town car. Just sayin'. No word on what new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will drive; probably something with lots of weapons on the roof.)

But for Brown, the security excuse won't fly, because the SUV was clearly optional. Back when LL first broke the news of the price of the Navigators' leases, Brown's office said he was given a choice between a town car or an SUV. Brown said he wanted an SUV. And the rest, as they say, is history.


  1. #1

    Good Point. Maybe he would have back tracked if the folks at DPW Fleet Management reminded him that he was requesting that they break the law to meet his demands. I doubt it. In post-Fenty government, bureaucrats don't question executives. It could get you fired and the IG under Fenty, as he appears to be now, was asleep at the wheel. With local constituency being as disrespectful to government workers as they are, a former Mayor who would just assume fire you than look at you, and no real protections for whistle blowing, who would report anything? It is all about do your job, go home and keep your mouth shut.

    The culture in government represents the culture of the people it serves.

  2. #2

    Isn't this under Cheh's committee as a procurement issue? please ask her to explain her boy kwame's actions!

  3. #3

    I would like to know who is the Contracting Officer that signed the papers. He\she should have advised that this procurement action was improper. Also, the legal office of the procurement shop should have stop the lease deal dead in its tracks.

  4. #4

    Alan -- nice pick on the details in the city code. [I mentioned this point over at GGW around 10:00am yesterday morning). The "emergency" term in the law, has been broadly interpreted...

  5. #5

    Why on earth would the Schools Chancellor need a chauffeured ride?


  6. #6

    I had a dream last night, Congress had a Control Board to take control of the District Government.

  7. #7

    Why oh why can't these retards drive themselves?

  8. #8

    Good find. Keep on it.

  9. #9

    I just saw Car's comment. He or she makes a good point. Let them drive personal cars and pay them mileage for official business.

  10. #10

    Shorter DCDem:
    It's all Fenty's fault.

  11. #11

    A lease is a contract. Contracts are approved by the Contracting and Procurement Office. If there was a legal problem with this lease, it should be directed at the Office of Contract and Procurement. I believe the IG recently released a report about that Office and its failure to follow procurement rules (under Fenty).

  12. #12

    I can think of very few reasons why anyone with an office job in the city government would need to be driving a city-owned car. The city could save a lot of money by making most people use their own cars and submit mileage for reimbursements -- which would require justification for use of their vehicle on city business, as well.

  13. Same Old Bull, Just Different Faces

    Why do these city officials need private cars anyway? What is wrong with them driving a regular DC Government vehicle that have already been purchased? You are supposed to serving the public. You are not a celebrity, you are not a movie star. These people are nothing but a bunch of flashy, ignorant hypocrites. They beat up on some people and do what they want to do themselves.

    I say get rid of DC Government and home rule and make everything Federal. DC GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WORK AND NEVER WILL WITH IDIOT LEADERS AND LAWS IN PLACE!!

    How sad that this is our nation's capital, with still no voting rights.

  14. #14

    Well, there's the solution right there. Give KWAME Fenty's old Smart Car. While he's not at all Smart, he's certainly small enough.

  15. #15

    Had this story not surfaced, Kwame Brown would still be driving around in the same Lincoln Navigator without a care in the world. Since the news story broke, he has no idea that this vehicle leased at the price mentioned. Now we shift the blame to DPW, which I gather is to take the pressure off Kwame and make him look an innocent player in it all. Just another story about ill do what I want even though its wrong, however, ill continue to do it until someone finds out, then I will tell the citizens how sorry I am..what a freaken joke

  16. #16

    Alan - you are THE MAN. What Dopes. And when will you bring this to the attention of Mayor Barry, er, I mean Mayor Gray and his Lincoln driving studs?

    one response to Car - Department heads are lucky to get a break literally. They try to do a good job, and are jostled by Council and constituents why things are not getting done, then by legislation thats without staff,by savage politics, and budget. There is no time to answer calls, drive, fulfill any agenda that makes the City better. And then the Mayor's office calls, or the City Administrator and reverses direction. so they get driven because the time is valuable. the cooler ones dont make a big deal of it. nor should we.

  17. #17

    @Southeast Ken: That wasn't a dream, it was a nightmare.

    I wasn't here but I've read the stories of the disaster DCPS was/is because Retired Army Lt. Gen. Julius Becton was put in control of them.

  18. #18

    What about just giving them a SmarTrip card? It works on the Circulator, Metrorail, Metrobus and some of them are old enough to qualify for senior fares. If that's not enough, reimburse them for a CaBi membership, too.

  19. #19

    Correect me if i'm wrong but didn't that guy Orange talk about Kwame's decision making skills and the fact that he has bad personal finance problems? I would assume the writing was on the wall and nobody cared at that point.

    It baffles me how these politicians are voted into office and praised during the campaign season, then when its over and you see their true colors you all are in disbelief.

    If your ashamed in your government, look in the mirror and stare at who voted to elect these individuals, because yall are voting for all the wrong reason obviously

  20. #20


  21. #21

    @drez: I know you believe that Fenty's Administration was bleach clean, and that to whisper anything contrary to that position is an attempt to blame him for all that is wrong about government in this city.

    But that is just plain silly.

    Everybody knows that Adrian Fenty was not the type of politician that respected 'processes' put in place to protect the welfare of the citys budget and hold elected officials accountable. This is evident with his Attorney General's regular assault on honoring FOIA requests. Documented plenty within this very paper.

    The result of his management style, different from Mayor Anthony Williams, was a culture of fear within the DC government where employees looked the other way rather than report waste, fraud and abuse for fear of retribution from the executive staff with no real protections from the city's Inspector or Attorney Generals. This, and a general public disrespect for the public employee guaranteed that senior leaders could carry on business how they pleased irrespective of rules and regulations being violated. Who was going to hold the Fenty Administration accountable to city laws? Peter Nickles?

    That said, I am one of those people that blame the citizens for all that is wrong with this city. Politicians could not and would not behave in the way that they do if the citizens REGULARLY held them accountable to serving the interest of the people and being responsible vice generents of the city's treasury.

  22. #22

    "But for Brown, the security excuse won't fly, because the SUV was clearly optional."

    LL you are absolutely right. There is no security issue for the Council Chair. He is not really in danger of anything except being exposed as the idiot he is. He has already proved that himself.

    Bottom line is DPW provided the car that Kwame wanted with the specs that Kwame outlined. We can only speculate on the sequence of events, however, more than likely, if DPW staff had pointed out the cost beforehand, Kwame as Council Chair would have overruled them. (I believe Kwame is lying on every level, including not being advised of the $1900+ monthly rental fee. DPW might be responsible for contracting the vehicle, but that monthly fee will be a line item in the Chairman's budget.)

    Realistically, the only way to keep him in check is through public humiliation when he takes these ill-advised actions. He should have been put on notice when he had $13,000 in renovations made to his office.

    His non-apology "apology" demonstrates that he is devoid of shame.

  23. #23

    Now Alan, this seems like a reasonable and substantive thing to report on.

    THIS is reporting!

  24. #24

    Why do part time workers making on average of $130,000 a year need a government owned vehicle anyway? All their business is done in the Wilson Building except when in their respective ward WHERE THEY LIVE.

    If thats the case I am a FULL time employee of the District of Columbia, have not had a raise in 5 years because the PART TIME CITY COUNCIL would not ratify our contract, I risk my life for the citizens of the great city, I am required to drive from one station to another many times all the way across town and sometimes back again for details hauling dirty smelly gear with me, putting miles on my vehicle and paying for fuel. I think I should be entitled to a vehicle too! Actually I don't Mr. Mayor. Do you know why? BECAUSE IT's PART OF MY JOB just like it driving around is part of yours. Get in what ever vehicle you can afford for you over paid salarys and use that not the one costing the citizens of DC and all of the country for that matter (Federal City).

    Before you continue to bash/cut/steal from your public servants maybe you should cut out a lot of the stupid spending first and you could fix you budget in no time............Oh yeah and how is that stadium working out for you? Getting a lot of your money back are ya?

  25. #25

    All of them should be driving theirselves around in their own damn cars with the exceptions of Gray. and we are being furloughed. this is some bull.

  26. #26

    "D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has allowed a friend to chauffeur him in a city-owned Lincoln Navigator, in apparent violation of laws that permit only city employees and officials to drive government vehicles."


    Wow did the story say Lincoln Navigator? So a public offical driving a Lincoln Navgator...not smart car isn't new.

    Why couldn't this have been pointed out before? We need to hold everyone accountable who has participated in avoiding the 2002 law.

  27. #27

    Sup nooDLez, how's the "wife" doing? Waiting for your white conspiracy theory for making Kwame look foolish. ONE CITY~

  28. #28

    Good point "Really," and good reporting Alan.

    So not only did Fenty have a Navigator, but he also had a city-owned SmartCar? Was the city paying for two lease agreements and the media going along with that??
    I don't see how people can fairly blame Gray for having one MPD-procedured Navigator when his predecessor had two vehicles...

  29. #29

    I remember when Adrian Thompson was Fire/EMS Chief. He drove a regular red Crown Vic while at work, but he didn't take it home. In fact, he actually road the Metro to and from work.

    He got ridiculed for taking the Metro by the press. So he finally started taking the Crown Vic back and forth to work. Whereapon it was stolen from in front of his home, and he got ridiculed for that too. He couldn't win!

    When Fire/EMS Chief Rubin replaced him, he got a fancy dancy SUV. I don't think it was a Navigator, but it was black! And loaded. And he ordered another one (a newer model) for his next four years as Fire/EMS Chief. Alas, he wasn't there to enjoy it.

    I'm not saying this violated the law, I am just saying, we are in this state now because the prior administrator overspent just about everywhere. Of course, we don't have Fenty to kick around any more.

  30. #30

    Michelle Rhee, Kaya Henderson, Allen Lew, Kwame Brown, Mayor Vince Gray and former Mayor Adrian Fenty all drove, owned or had access to SUVs!!!

    Now all you Mayor Gray, TRANSPLANTED GENTRIFIERS can now scale back on your hypocrisy and get back to your nit picking ways...pathetic!

    Much ado about absolutely nothing! NOODLEZ said it best, you people break/change the rules to your benefit and to your opposition's demise, childish and obvious!

    Let's now deal with the REAL please!

  31. #31

    Mayor Gray BASHERS!!!!

  32. #32

    Now this issue has been put to sleep what will it be next, what kinda comb the mayor uses, the amount of teeth are in the comb and whether or not it's made of recycled or FRESH plastic....petty, sophomoric drivel while people continue to be unemployed, homeless and hungry!

  33. #33

    Ayy Keith B., looks like Terry Miller did it for him, YOU moron!

  34. #34

    @seDCdude, if you are so concerned about "people continue [ing] to be unemployed, homeless and hungry!", then how about you ask Mr. Gray when he plans to start delivering on his campaign promises, complete his cabinet, and get to running this city? Is that before or after his "200 day plan"?

    How's that for "THE REAL"?

    I mean, Vince has to be a good executive, right? It's not like he failed miserably at his last high profile executive position [DHS] - wait, what?!

  35. #35

    Ayy RAKE, you're on your own in YOUR MISERY my friend!

    Get out today and enjoy the city and the weather, especially considering the fact the city has 7 less SUVs to pay for or out fukking up the air you breathe!

    You are typical!

  36. #36

    Sup seDCdude, I think you need to calm down! This can't be good for your heart. You still going to challenge me to a fight at whatever Barry Farm kitty club you hang out in? Sorry gramps but I don't go around pushing old men off their walkers.

    Nice how Rake puts you in your place about your "boo hoo poor Vince" lines and all you can say is to go outside! Maybe you should too, go convalesce on the front porch of the 'home!

  37. #37

    You all need to give it up. I love how everyone wants to put all this on Fenty but funny enough the government is still blowing more money than ever and we can't even get work done because we don't have directors appointed. I mean, I know we have to pay more money and do a National search to find folks who (a) work/worked for the city (b) live in MD or Norther VA or (c) were government employees in other locations so I know it takes a long time but this is shameful. We are two months in and we don't have agency heads for most of the government.

    At the same time we are still dealing with regular bs like fake fees, lies in press conferences and new senior staff hiring their kids. Oh, my bad they are qualified to get jobs that their bosses can't fire them from because they are appointments. Yeah, Fenty was the only issue but we are still having the same problems.

  38. #38

    Keith B

    champ you got the wrong dude! Keep reaching and you just may grasp it you TOM coon!


    damn, most full full government transitions normally take 90 days, stop reaching as well, you don't know what kinda shape Fenty left thing in...fall back and give Mayor Gray the respect necessary to lead mayorally and then make your case!

    You sound just like the Fenty enablers who allowed that bald headed bamma to treat DC's coffers as his very own "slush fund"!

  39. #39

    One last question, seDCdude - how does one "lead mayorally" ?


  40. #40

    Ask fenty...that was his spill!!!

  41. #41

    You sheep voted these assholes into office in November now suffer!

  42. #42

    Fenty spilled something? What did he spill?

    OH! Maybe you mean spiel? Ok, whatever.

    Enjoy your weekend. What scandal will next week bring? Tune in to find out on ONE CITY, Back to the Control Board...

  43. #43

    NO, I typed spill and that is what I meant,, define spill as it relates to, you guessed it ...... MAYORALLY , SPIEL would belong to you...go figure


  44. #44

    Ayy RAKE, while you're at it this w/e, find out who has the lengthy argument or speech here meant to persuade, can you do that?

    Hmmmm and that should help you with what fenty "spilled"......eggbert!

  45. #45

    seDCdude, rollin' wit the punches! Too blind to see what a clown you're making of yourself. Keep posting, UNCA'--you're making more sense by the minute. And I'd say I got the right seDCdude!

  46. #46

    Keith B. step aside before you get a headache foolthug!

  47. #47

    Isn't it strange that it was an out-of-towner that best managed this city. Not strange, 'a shame'.

    It is true, Kwame treats his office as if he just won the "player of the year" trophy and Vince Gray has an incomplete cabinet, to include primary District agencies. Yet he has appointed a director over some office addressing "womens issues".

    The government continues to add to the city's payroll (positions other than cabinet positions) during a hiring and salary freeze through a backdoor called "mayoral appointment".

    All the while, 33,000+ government employees are taking a pay cut through mandatory furloughs.

    I'd say folks are expressing "righteous indignation". I know I do. And I voted for Gray.

  48. #48

    Keith B.-WOW!!!




  49. #49

    If they drive their own vehicles to work, why should they be reimbursed for their mileage. This is a part time job that pays a handsome 6 figure salary and on top of this, they all live in the District. Drive to work or take public transportation like every other person has to do that works in the District.

  50. #50

    Typical diversionary BS, start the story with KB so that you can lump VG in it. This sh*t would be halarious if it wasn't so pitiful, if you're going after KB for his indiscretion's do that, but please stop acting like disgruntled bi*ches on get back time because your boy lost, raise up off of the Mayor and let him govern. The man has been in office but for a short time, why not let him get his bearings in stead of trying to circumvent every decision he makes. The point I'm making is, people that are unbias see right through your lame attemps to discredit the guy because you all want so badly for him to fail reguardless of what happens to the city, I call that treachery.

  51. DaddyGraceFishSandwich@yahoo.com

    This week has been a circus at the Wilson Building staring Kwame Brown as the lead actor. Kwame showed his immaturity, ignorance, and his being a materialistic human being.

    Kwame Brown shouldn't have been voted in as the DC Council Chair, but disgusted DC voters like myself didn't have a great selection to choose from. It was between the idiot Kwame and the other pimp, former Ward 5 DC Councilmember Vincent Orange.

    I am sick of all of these idiots sitting inside the Wilson Building. Mayor Vincent Gray is a big disappointment in my and other DC voters eyes, but we were glad to get rid of the former dictator Adrian Malik Fenty. Now we are stuck with another politician not caring about his constituents. It's all about me, me, me, with most politicians.

    DC voters should take to the streets like the people in Egypt and over throw the Wilson Building and run Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown, Jim Graham, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Muriel Bowser, Harry Thomas Jr., Tommy Wells, Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry, Phil Mendelson, David Catania, Michael Brown, and Sekou Biddle out of the Wilson Building.

    Disgusted DC Voter

  52. #52

    Anothernative --

    What are you talking about? The story says Gray's car is allowed due to the security exemption. And it points out that several Fenty appointees, and Fenty, had SUVs, and that Fenty also had another car that the city is still stuck with.

  53. #53

    @Mike Madden: That is correct. Fenty's SUV was used primarily by MPD to escort Michelle Fenty and family to and fro while the Mayor used the city owned Smart Car.

  54. #54

    And also, occasionally, the mayor crashed the SUV into other D.C. citizens' cars.

  55. #55

    @MM, If you've read the previous blogs you would know what I'm talking about, do your homework before you jump out there dude. I'm speaking to all of the maligning spin doctor's that are writing in this piece dude, since you need interpretation.

  56. #56

    Anothernative --

    I thought you were talking about Suderman, not the people commenting.

    But I've read the previous blogs. I edit most of them. So don't worry, I've done my homework.

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