Grass-Cutting Contracts Cause the Latest Ethics Controversy in D.C. - NBC4 Washington

Grass-Cutting Contracts Cause the Latest Ethics Controversy in D.C.



    The District government has a lot of grass to cut but it's paying one firm twice as much as it could another. Now the mayor and the DC Council are immersed in an ethical dispute over who gets paid and how much. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011)

    D.C. has dozens of acres of grassy fields and rec centers that must be mowed, but a disputed $2 million contract to do that is now raising serious ethical questions about who gets paid what and why.

    One firm has a contract twice as expensive as that of a competitor that was doing a good job.

    In an unusually long, lead editorial Tuesday, The Washington Post questioned why the mayor's office attempted to fire a firm that had won high marks from Public Works officials while allowing a smaller and more expensive company to continue working.

    Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh said she's worried about the handling of this city money by Mayor Vincent Gray's administration and will hold a hearing Friday.

    The Lorenz company has cut grass in six of the city's eight wards at an estimated cost of about $60 per acre. Public Works sought to renew its contract, but the mayor's office moved to end it.

    Meanwhile, Community Bridge Inc., responsible for two of eight wards, charged about $120 an acre and continued working. Another possible complaint is that Community Bridge may not qualify as a D.C.-based company.

    Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas, who had strongly backed Community Bridge earlier this year, did not speak at the council session Tuesday. Warner Session, who represents Community Bridge, declined to comment on the dispute.

    The mayor's office -- stunned by the criticism -- told The Post that ending the cheaper Lorenz contract was a misunderstanding and that both companies would be continued until the city decides what to do next.

    The D.C. Council also wants to see internal documents from the mayor's office that might explain why this grass-cutting got so much high-level attention.