Politically Connected Contractor Fort Myer Lands Sweet Rental Deal
It’s hard to think of a contractor with a luckier relationship with the District government than Fort Myer Construction Corporation. Even a 2003 ban on working in the city for three years (lifted before then) that came after the company admitted to a conspiracy to bribe District employees hasn’t stopped Fort Myer from gobbling up much of the District’s paving business.
The company has further cemented its relationship with the District government through more than $118,000 in political contributions to D.C. political candidates from the corporation, two executives, and their relatives since 2002, and it even employed At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds (also the chairwoman of the city’s dominant Democratic Party) until her re-election in April 2013.
Now, according to the District’s Office of the Inspector General, the contracting giant enjoys another perk: cut-rate deals on leasing D.C. government equipment. According to an OIG report released last month, in 2007, the District Department of Transportation rented two pieces of equipment to Fort Myer for $32,000 less than it should have.
Renting out DDOT equipment is something that the department “rarely allows” at any price, according to a letter sent by then-DDOT head Terry Bellamy to the inspector general’s office in January 2013.
Still, that didn’t stop the agency from renting out two barrier movers—machines that rapidly add or subtract traffic barriers in a zipper-like process—to Fort Myer for reconstruction work on Kenilworth Avenue NE. The company worked on the $35 million contract from 2007 to 2009.
Fort Myer agreed to pay $1,500 a month for the first mover and $750 a month for the second, backup mover. Counting a separate fee to rent the barriers themselves, the payments Fort Myer owed DDOT came to more than $59,000.
While Bellamy claims in a letter to the inspector general the movers were inoperational and hadn’t been used for 15 years, OIG estimated that the rental deal should have brought the city $32,000 more by comparing how long the equipment was rented and studying a similar agreement Fort Myer had with Maryland.
The inspector general’s office didn’t find that the rental agreement led to any shenanigans in the bidding process. But questions about the deal persist: According to the OIG report, investigators couldn’t find any documents showing that DDOT officials were involved in deciding on the rates with Fort Myer, although the deal was arranged by people described as “program officials” without the knowledge of the contracting officer in charge of the job. OIG officials also couldn’t find sign-out slips showing when the equipment left DDOT.
Then, when it came time to return the equipment, neither DDOT or Fort Myer followed through, according to the inspector general’s office. Instead, the two machines were held by Fort Myer for nearly three years after the project—and the lease—was over. In an even stranger mistake, DDOT never sought $18,000 worth of payments for renting the second mover until pressed by OIG. (DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders tells LL that the $18,000 tab has since been paid.)
Fort Myer attorney and spokesman Chris Kearns wouldn’t comment publicly about whether his company thinks the OIG report is accurate.
LL can’t blame him. The customer is always right, and the District is one of the best customers Fort Myer has.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery