Loose Lips

Bowser Launches Contracting Oversight Board

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To improve the District’s contracting process, Mayor Muriel Bowser has established a new oversight board under the Office of Contracting and Procurement.

The Procurement Accountability Review Board, which met for the first time this month, will review all contracts requiring retroactive approval and decisions to overturn contract actions that conflict with existing laws in the city. Bowser announced the board this morning at a breakfast with the D.C. Council.

"The goal of the Board is not to consider each potential problem with the contracting process or each potential contracting error," an order announcing the board's creation states. "Instead, the goal of the Board is to select matters that, when reviewed and resolved, are likely to result in substantial, widespread, or long-term improvements to the contracting process."

The board's creation could be an important step in reducing the amount of money spent on retroactive change orders, particularly in the construction of schools in the District.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Chairman Phil Mendelson said. “We can figure out what changes need to occur so we don’t need retroactive approvals.”

The board also released a report that dissected the root causes of the 21 most recent retroactive change orders, which ranged in cost from $1.2 to $338 million. Although many contracts required retroactive approval because of changes in the law, extenuating circumstances, and changes in project requirements, the biggest reason has been faulty planning and coordination between District offices.

The board will meet quarterly and issue a report of the last quarter’s findings, which the board will then send to the Council. PARB’s next meeting will be in September.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Bowser, Racine Continue Fight Over DCPS Food Settlement

Mayor Muriel Bowser and Attorney General Karl Racine continued their spat over a nearly $20 million settlement with D.C. Public Schools' food vendor, with Bowser saying dedicating settlement money to nonprofit groups sets a bad precedent for District settlements.

"We don’t want to go down a slippery slope where those moneys are distributed to private entities," Bowser says. "That’s tantamount to earmarking funds."

Five-million dollars of the roughly $19 million settlement with DCPS food vendor Chartwells for contract violations will go to five nonprofits, two of which previously had Racine on their boards.

Read more Bowser, Racine Continue Fight Over DCPS Food Settlement

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Nonprofits With Racine Ties Benefit in Chartwells Settlement

Attorney General Karl Racine resigned from nonprofit boards when he took office, but he didn't stop continuing to help two of them. Two nonprofits whose boards Racine once served on received money in Office of the Attorney General's settlement with D.C. Public Schools food provider Chartwells.

Last week, Racine announced that his office had settled with Chartwells for $19.4 million over whistleblower claims that its food was regularly late or spoiled. The settlement inspired two councilmembers to call for investigations of Chartwells' continuing contract with DCPS.

The councilmembers aren't alone. Muriel Bowser's office is reviewing the settlement, according to Bowser spokesman Michael Czin.

"Our lawyers are currently taking a close look at all parts of this settlement," Czin writes in an email to LL. "Right now, there are still a lot of unanswered questions."

Read more Nonprofits With Racine Ties Benefit in Chartwells Settlement

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Audit: D.C. Fire Department Hasn’t Implemented More than a Dozen EMS Recommendations from 2007

Nine years after David Rosenbaum died following a botched emergency response, a new report from the D.C. Auditor says that the D.C. Fire and EMS department has followed through on less than half of the recommendations that emerged after his death.

DCFEMS has implemented or partially implemented 17 of the 36 recommendations made in the 2007 task force's report on Rosenbaum's death, while 19 of them were either never implemented or rescinded later. The never-implemented recommendations include hiring exclusively "dual-role" personnel who could be both EMTs and firefighters, as well as training DCFEMS staff who were hired before the report in both roles.

Read more Audit: D.C. Fire Department Hasn’t Implemented More than a Dozen EMS Recommendations from 2007

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Another Bowser Cabinet Official Bails Ahead of Severance Deadline

Another day in June, another resignation from a Muriel Bowser cabinet official who stands to get a sizable severance check. Office on Aging head John Thompson announced his resignation today, effective June 29, putting himself just one day ahead of the cut-off for Vince Gray administration holdovers to quit and still receive severance packages.

"It's time to close this chapter in my life and pursue another opportunity," Thompson tells LL.

One opportunity Thompson will soon get: choosing what to do with tens of thousands of dollars. The District's twelve-week compensation package entitles him to approximately $36,000 in severance payout.

Thompson's exit puts him, along with departing Department Public Works head Bill Howland and former Office of Risk Management chief Phillip Lattimore, among the appointees from the previous administration leaving before the severance deadline.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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