Loose Lips

Another City Construction Contracting Mystery

Last October, LL reported on a mystery in city contracting involving Keith Lomax, the owner of a construction company and one-time chauffeur to former Mayor Adrian Fenty. The mystery: what exactly did Lomax's company, RBK Construction, do to receive a $2.8 million drywall contract at Anacostia Senior High School in which it did not, in fact, do any drywall work? The contractor who did the actual work says he bid the contract with Forrester Construction, the Maryland-based general contractor. The contractor says his contract was accepted, but Forrester directed him to partner with RBK for reasons he says were not explained to him.  Neither Forrester or Lomax offered an explanation to LL either.

The Department of General Services, which oversees public school construction, said that it requires subcontractors to perform at least 35 percent of a contract, and that it was "evident" RBK did not meet that standard on the Anacostia job. What the consequences are of RBK not meeting that standard have yet to be explained to LL, despite having questioned DGS Director Brian Hanlon several times.

New DGS records uncovered through Freedom of Information Act requests raise similar questions about another partnership between Forrester and RBK on a relatively small public park construction project. Records show Forrester was selected as the general contractor to renovate 10th Street Park near the convention center, a project whose total cost was $2 million and was completed in 2011.

The records show Forrester hired RBK as a subcontractor to do "site construction" for $530,000. DGS counts this amount towards the 91 percent of construction work on the park it says were done by Certified Business Enterprises, as RBK is a registered CBE.  Here's a shot of the records (you'll have to click to enlarge):

But certified payroll sheets for the job show that RBK used a subcontractor of its own, a non-CBE firm based in Upper Marlboro called Locust Lane Farms, to do the actual work. RBK's payroll sheets show that it employed no tradesmen or laborers of any kind on the project, while Locust Lane Farms employed several (only two were District residents). Locust Lane's owner did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Its website shows that the company has its own heavy construction equipment to do projects like the 10th Street Park. By constrast, RBK styles itself as a general contractor and operates out of row house off Minnesota Avenue where there's no room to store any construction equipment.

Forrester did not immediately respond to requests for comment. LL asked Hanlon for comment yesterday. Late this afternoon, Hanlon's spokesman, Darrell Pressley, says he's still trying to find out details about the subcontracts on the 10th Street Park project. Pressley did note that the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (which is part of DGS) inherited oversight this project, as well as the project's chose architect and general contractor, after the D.C. Council stripped control of park projects away from Omar Karim, another friend of Fenty's.

LL called Lomax today to ask what RBK did on the 10th Street park project. Lomax refused to answer and accused LL of unfairly picking on Lomax.

"Why do you keep harassing me?" Lomax asked LL, who hasn't called Lomax in six months. "You're a harrasser."

Lomax then directed LL to "call the attorney general, and they'll tell you that I've done nothing wrong." (LL has a request in the Office of the Attorney General to see if they know what Lomax is referring to.)

Lomax then abruptly told LL to "hold on."

After five minutes of waiting, Lomax said "hold on" again.

Another five minutes went by. When Lomax got back on the phone to say "hold on," LL asked what LL was holding on for. Lomax did not answer but told LL to "hold on" again.

Three minutes passed.

"Hello?" Lomax said.

"Yeah," LL responded.

"Hold on."

LL waited a few more minutes before hanging up.

When LL called back several hours later, Lomax responded:

"Hey, hold on for a minute okay," before putting LL on hold, again. A minute later ... well, you get the idea by now.

For the record, it isn't just LL who has been poking around RBK's contracts. The city's auditor has reported that the city couldn't provide proper documentation to justify nearly $10 million in payments to RBK, and Robert Trout, an independent investigator commissioned by the D.C. Council, said a contract RBK won for playground in Chevy Chase  "raises questions" about why more qualified bidders didn't win.

Photo by Alan Suderman

  • Frederick Douglass

    Well, I guess this establishment liberal democrat is going to have to return to my 19th century republican roots and vote for Pat Mara. There is no way I can vote for baby-fenty stooge and character assassin Elissa Silverman; empty suit, nitwit Michael Brown and ethically challenged Anita Bonds. Matthew Frumin and Paul Zukerberg merit respect; but I don't want to risk voting for one of these two gentlemen, and allow one of the clown car candidates to weasel into office.

  • Really?

    Yawwwwn. Here we go again. This is getting old now. DGS is a joke. Totally corrupt. And even a blind man with half of a brain KNOWS that all of the city's major construction contracting shenanigans are sanctioned by Lew and covered up by Brian Hanlon.

  • truth hurts

    LL, hold on a few hours. I'll get back to you.

  • Anonymous, Too

    Although loath to do so, I will repeat myself. My comment from your October issue is as appropriate today as it was then.
    -------------------------------------
    OMG! Sewerman! Twice in one month. I'm swooning. Are you becoming a crack investigative journalist right before my eyes? Dorothy Brizill won't believe it but should be grateful.

    From DCWatch's 5-18-11 issue of The Mail:
    "Second, when Dorothy asked about the scathing, damning DC Auditor's report on Allen Lew's management of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, Gray and Lew tried to dismiss the questions. Lew scorned the report, implying that the auditor had been unable to find the supporting documents because she had been incompetent, and Gray implied that the audit was unimportant because Lew got the job done, and people liked the renovated schools."
    http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2011/11-05-18.htm

    Here's a bonus hint for you: Lomax was already doing a booming business with the City during the Williams administration before he hooked up to the Fenty gravy train and hauled in the big payoffs.
    ------------------------------------

    Lomax is not the brightest bulb on the block (neither was Fenty) and, as I hinted in October, you need to look past him to find the bigger, smellier fish (think Allan Lew) that are using him as a pass-through to get around DC set aside regulations, reward their favored cronies and keep their favored pols afloat.

  • KeepIt100

    Drez?

  • drez

    Never was a fan of Lomax.
    Don't recall commenting on let alone defending him in any previous post.

  • Tom Quinn

    This is interesting because there have been a lot of problems with the work done at the Chevy Chase park - drainage was not installed correctly and the "improved" field was poorly graded and is lumpy and much of the grass was dead within a year. The back stop which is just 3 years old is rapidly disintegrating and the $500,000 splash park had to be dug up and re-installed within weeks of the parks opening and by the end of last summer was barely working just a year after install.

    DPR seems to be poorly run but it is hard to tell because they are mostly unresponsive to requests for help or meetings so it is hard to know where problems with contractors end and problems with DPR begin.

    But the city supposedly spent about 4.5 million on Chevy Chase park which included an alleged $400,000 to design a new playground (replacing an old one that was 10 years old and in great shape with a new one that is of cheaper quality than what it replaced) and on the design the design team for that amount of money could not remember to include trash cans in the design and also failed to consider the proper location for the sandbox(and yes these issues were pointed out numerous times but again no one ever responds to emails at DPR).

    So what I suspected at the time may turn out to be true which is that this whole project was just a form of graft.

    Which is a shame because it was a lot of money for a poor result and the community probably will not get another shot at improving this park for a long time.

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  • noodlez

    @DOWNTOWN RESIDENT-I BELIEVE YOU WERE BEING SUMMONED TO MAKE A LUCID ARGUMENT "FOR" THE FLENTY ADMIN BOOSTING OL' KEITHYBOY TO JEFFREY THOMPSON STATUS DURING HIS FAILED ADMINISTRATION.

    YO SEWERMAN ITS NO MYSTERY!
    KEITH LOMAX WAS STEALING MONEY JUST LIKE SINCLOWN SHITSTAIN. BOTH OF THOSE CONNIVING MOFOS PLAYING THE MIDDLE FOR AN END RESULT PAYDAY FOR WORK THAT ONLY INVOLVED THEM WORKING FENTY'S FRONTSIDE IN THE BEGINNING!

    @QUINN-IM SURE YOUR COUNCIL MEMBER CAN FIND SOME CHEEZE TO REDO THE WRONG. WHY DONT THEY CANCEL THE DOG PARK AND SPEND MONEY ON FUTURE TAX PAYING CHILDREN INSTEAD OF WASTING GREEN SPACE ON UNDESERVING POLLUTERS OF THE CHESAPEAKE AND POTOMAC?

    THE GREEN SPACE SHOULD BE USED FOR A NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN TO TEACH CHILDREN HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES AND TAKE CARE OF THE LAND INSTEAD CARVING OUT A SPACE FOR USELESS ANIMALS.

  • Angelina

    DC taxpayers spent 4.5 Millions on a Park, with a splash park...don't have one for the kiddies in my neighborhood!!!

  • drez

    @noodlez
    It's dishonest of you to compare Lomax with Thompson. The two are so far apart in size and scope as to be two different things entirely. You know this.

    To the extent that contract subs are examined, and to the extent that the council gets out of contract approval than good things may come from all of this. I have been saying that here for a long time now.

  • Welllllllll!!!!!

    Wellllllll!!!!!
    Look who thinks it dishonest to compare apples with oranges. To say nothing about his statement re 'the two being so far apart in size and scope, thereby becoming two different things entirely'.

    If Fenty had stayed around long enough, his former substitute teacher may HAVE been promoted to Jeff Thompson status. Hell, they were well on their way with Lomax, Skinner and Karim.

    Way to go LL/MM. Keep it going.

  • Scotch

    Undoubtedly the crack CBE team at the Dept of Small & Local Business Development is looking into the matter and will conduct a very thorough investigation...

  • noodlez

    @DREZ-IF THE FLENSTER WOULD HAVE WON A 2ND TERM OL' KEITHY AND SINCLOWN WOULD HAVE BEEN JOSTLING FOR FIRSTEE'S ON FLENTY'S JANK. DUDE JUST BECAUSE LOWMAX WAS IN A DIFFERENT TAX BRACKET DOESN'T MAKE HIM ANY DIFFERENT FROM JEFF. AS FOR MY DISHONESTY YOUR COMMENT #6 IS SOME POT AND KETTLE SHIT.

    YES I'M SPECULATING! HOWEVER BASED ON EVENTS AND HISTORY SAFE ODDS WOULD HAVE LOWMAX PULLING IN MAJOR COIN AND MAKING PLAYS BASED ON HIS PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORST MAYOR DC EVER HAD IF HE WAS REELECTED.

    MY QUESTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS;
    1. IF LOMAX WAS DOING BUSINESS WITH DC IN WILLIAMS ADMIN WAS HE FRIENDS WITH FENTY AT THE TIME?
    2. WHAT COMMITTEES WERE FENTY ON?
    3. DID COUNCILMAN FENTY HAVE OVERSIGHT OF ANY COMMITTEE THAT LOWMAX WOULD HAVE COME UNDER FENTY'S PERVIEW?
    4. WILL THESE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE FENTY ADMIN EVER BE ADDRESSED?

    BROTHA MACHEN SHOULD BE LOOKING INTO AND GOING AFTER THESE CLOWNS WITH THE SAME FINE TOOTH COMB HE USED ON KWAME AND HTJ.

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  • DaShaun Hawkins

    The same Contracting Officer from OPEFM is also the head of Procurement for DGS which is JW Lanun who is a complete idiot, lusch, and junkie with an IQ of a wooded door knob so Gov't corruption is expected in DGS JW Lanun is licking Lew's behind so much his face should have permanent brown stains on it by now. Ok just fire JW Lanun he is clearly part of the link here!!!!!!!

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