D.C. Sues Developer Controlled by Peebles

Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010  |  Updated 9:30 PM EDT
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D.C. Accuses One of Its Landlords of False Claims

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The District filed a civil action against the landlord of 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast, Attorney General Peter Nickles announced Wednesday.

The city rents most of the space in the building from MLK Partnership and has for more than 20 years. D.C.'s complaint accuses the landlord of improper charging the city for things like political contributions and champagne and valet parking at a fundraiser in Miami.

The landlord included things that weren't the District's responsibility -- like cleaning, trash removal and management fees -- among operating expenses, according to the lawsuit. A March audit found that D.C. overpaid the landlord by more than $600,000.

The suit seeks $1.8 million plus civil penalties up to $10,000 for each false claim, the Washington Business Journal reported.

"The False Claims Act provides strong remedies that are very appropriate when addressing this type of egregious conduct," Nickles said.

R. Donahue Peebles, who considered running for mayor this year and is the managing general partner of MLK Partnership, called the lawsuit a political vendetta.

"This lawsuit is without merit and the allegations made in it are false," read a statement from Peebles. "Sadly, this action represents another example of a continued pattern of abuse of power under this Attorney General.  It is no secret that I have been highly critical of this administration and for good reason. This retaliation does not surprise me; it has become the modus operandi of the Fenty administration over the past 4 years.  I know that this is a consequence of my criticism.  It is a price I am willing to pay in order to do my part in standing up to an administration that has repeatedly practiced intimidation."

In the statement, Peebles alleged D.C. has owed the MLK Partnership between $216,000 and $326,000, but the MLK Partnership hasn't demanded payment or taken legal action.

"Going against the recommendation of the Department of Real Estate Services, Peter Nickles has taken the most confrontational path possible by retroactively invalidating a settled agreement the partnership made with Director Robin Eve-Jasper this past Monday and going straight to court," the statement read.

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