The D.C. Housing Authority broke the law when went around the D.C. Council before awarding tens of millions of dollars in contracts for parks and recreation projects, Attorney General Peter Nickles said late Friday.
Amid complaints that most of the work went to firms with ties to the D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Nickles said that the mayor and his aides skipped the step of first sending the contracts to the council for approval.
By law, contracts that exceed $1 million must be approved by the council. Instead, the Housing Authority was used as a development vehicle to renovate or build a dozen parks, recreation centers and ball fields totalling $82 million, the Washington Post reported.
Nickles sent his opinion in a letter to the interim executive director and the general counsel of the Housing Authority.
The mayor, who is facing reelection next year, has been frequently criticized for doling out jobs and contracts to friends, fraternity brothers and other associates, according to the Post. Banneker Ventures, a firm owned by a Fenty fraternity brother, Omar Karim and RBK Landscaping and Construction, owned by Fenty's friend Keith Lomax, were among the contract awardees.
Fenty says that he was not involved in choosing the contracts and that the practice of bypassing the council "predates his administration."
(Because that would make all that illegal stuff kosher, of course. Um, not really...)
Nickles, meanwhile, dismissed some council members' concerns that the contracts went to Fenty's friends, the Post reported.
"I have no reason to believe there was a problem with them. They were all competitively bid," he said. "The fact that the mayor has friends, has fraternity brothers and goes to a ball game [with them], that doesn't exclude someone from competing for a contract."
But even if the mayor has done no wrong, there is also the issue of what happens if the council rejects any of the contracts, especially since several have already been started.