Jim Graham Sued Over Metro Deal
Omar Karim, one of former Mayor Adrian Fenty's most-favored developers, is suing Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, Metro, and another developer over a failed bid to develop a Metro property on Florida Avenue NW. Karim's company, Banneker Ventures, filed a lawsuit yesterday in federal court seeking $100 million in damages saying, the defendants took part in fraud, unjust enrichment, and conspiracy.
Graham has been dinged by both an independent investigation commissioned by Metro and by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability for his role in objecting to Karim's efforts to develop the Metro parcel. The D.C. Council voted to reprimand Graham for violating the city's code of conduct, while Graham has vigorously maintained his innocence.
Karim's lawsuit covers the well-trod ground about Graham's efforts to leverage his vote on the city's lucrative lottery contract in an effort to put a Graham-favored developer, LaKritz Adler, on the Metro project. (LaKritz Adler is the other developer named in the lawsuit.) Allegedly, Graham said he'd vote to give the lottery contract to businessman Warren Williams Jr., who was then a part of Banneker Ventures, if Banneker brought LaKritz Adler onto the Metro deal. The lawsuit also has some other allegations of wrongdoing by Graham, including an allegation that Graham told Karim to throw him a campaign fundraiser before Graham, who was then a member of Metro's board of directors, would approve the development deal. Graham also wanted Karim to spend $40,000 a year supporting the U Street Business Improvement District, which Graham was spearheading, in exchange for his support, a request that was "a clear attempt at extortion," the lawsuit says.
There's also this: "Graham told Karim that he would agree to meet with him only if they met at Ten Penh restaurant, Graham’s 'favorite restaurant.'"
Reached by phone, Graham said, "I have no comment," before LL even asked him a question or said what he was calling about.
A spokeswoman for Metro said the agency would be providing a statement shortly. Attempts to reach representatives for LaKritz Adler were unsuccessful. Karim's lawyer was unavailable for an immediate comment.
Update: Graham has issued a statement saying that Banneker has no one to blame but Banneker for its failed Metro bid. "Although audacious given their dismal performance and demonstrated pattern of nonfeasance, Banneker’s claims are spurious and wholly unfounded. I look forward to an early dismissal."
Read the whole lawsuit here:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery