Wells Says No to Water Board Pick
Ward 6 Councilmartyr and almost mayoral candidate Saint Tommy Wells says he'll be voting against lobbyist Rod Woodson's nomination to the D.C. Water board of directors.
The move isn't much of a surprise, as Wells put a delay on Woodson's nomination late last month over concerns about a potential conflict of interest stemming from Woodson's representation of a D.C. Water construction contractor.
Wells says he's met with Woodson in the days since asking for the delay and has made up his mind not to support the nomination. Wells says Woodson's position as a partner at Holland & Knight, a heavy-hitting law firm on city development and land use issues, makes him an unacceptable to choice to sit on a board that sets water rates for both residential and commercial customers.
"I do not see how a partner at Holland & Knight isn't business at usual," Wells says. "He should not be setting rates for businesses."
Wells added that proposing such a plugged-in power player for the water board is another example of the District government's "tin ear" on ethics issues. But whether Wells will have the votes to stop Woodson's nomination is still an open question. Woodson enjoys broad support among lawmakers at the Wilson Building. He's one of Mayor Vince Gray's favorite lobbyists and has been the chairman of Councilmember David Catania's last two campaigns.
Labor officials plan on lobbying elected officials today to block Woodson's nomination. Their opposition is based, in large part, on Woodson's past lobbying on behalf of construction companies trying to undo the District's First Source laws, which aim at increasing the number of District residents on publicly financed construction jobs. Jos Williams, head of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, says Woodson has made "his stance against District workers abundantly clear."
Digging a bit deeper, union officials are sore at Woodson for lobbying on behalf of concrete construction giant Miller & Long, whose owners have long been staunchly anti-union. One labor official says part of the pitch against Woodson might include highlighting the works of Miller & Long's Brett McMahon (son of the company's chairman John McMahon). McMahon has been a frequent critic of the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama; he's the spokesman for a website that referred to Obama as "Monsieur Presidente" and assails his record on the economy. McMahon also told attendees at a Conservative Political Action Conference that Miller & Long was "vehemently" against unions, boasted about putting the carpenters' union out of business, and urged anti-union proponents to be creative when trying to undermine union influence.
Woodson tells LL he doesn't advise Miller & Long on its political views, which he notes have nothing to do with setting water rates. In a letter to the council, Woodson downplayed any potential conflict of interests and highlighted his past work as chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board: "I offer a pledge to the mayor, the Council, and my fellow citizens and ratepayers that as a member of the board of DC Water I will take care of our collective best interests."
The council is set to vote on Woodson's nomination tomorrow.