High noon will come after all.
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans sent a letter today to Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray asking that the highly controversial lottery contract be added to the agenda at the council’s Dec. 16 legislative meeting—the last session scheduled for the term.
Evans’ request breaks a stalemate that’s lasted since spring, when council approval of the $120 million lottery contract became a political hot potato after reports that winner W2I had connections to controversial businessmen Warren Williams Sr. and Warren C. Williams Jr. Though the W2I contract is universally acknowledged to save millions over the rival bid from longtime vendor Lottery Technology Enterprises, run by well-connected businessman Leonard Manning, the Williamses’ connections with slum properties and a shuttered nightclub scuttled quick council approval.
Gray voted in May to table the contract approval resolution, the last council action on the matter, and since then, he has said that any member was welcome to revisit the issue while pointing out that no new circumstances or additional information have existed to warrant fresh action. But yesterday, Gray softened on the prospects for another vote: “There’s certainly that possibility,” he said in response to LL’s question at a council press conference. “We wouldn’t foreclose anything.”
The vote will be the second dramatic showdown between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and an emboldened council in as many months, with W2I supporter Fenty fresh off a victory in getting his right-hand man, Peter J. Nickles, confirmed as attorney general two weeks ago. This lobbying battle, however, comes with a lot more money and political juice behind it. Both LTE and W2I have invested in relatively sophisticated PR and lobbying operations; over the past few months, W2I has hired a lobbying firm to visit congressional offices to explore potential intervention in the matter, spreading the message both on the Hill and to the press that a rejection of a fairly awarded W2I contract would spell disaster for the District’s contracting integrity.
The Dec. 16 vote will be the last chance for the contract to gain approval, and it’s gonna be a squeaker. Soft votes reportedly belong to Phil Mendelson, Harry Thomas Jr., and Tommy Wells, with the key vote likely being that of lame duck Carol Schwartz, who will be replaced on Jan. 2 by Michael A. Brown—who, having taken contributions from LTE and its PR consultant, Ann Walker Marchant, is unlikely to be sympathetic to W2I’s cause.