It's Good to Be Friends With Fenty

After Fenty became mayor, his friends prospered

As the D.C. Council deepens its investigation into million-dollar city contracts with ties to Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration, one thing seems to have become abundantly clear: it pays to be friends with Fenty.

According to the Washington Post:

The mayor's friends were relatively unknown before Fenty's rise: engaged in neighborhood activism, working for a developer or running a nightclub or a landscaping business. [But] after Fenty became mayor, the men prospered, starting or expanding companies that have repeatedly landed development and construction projects awarded by the D.C. government.

The contracts in question -- $86 million in tax dollars for recreation centers -- are at the heart of a special inquiry by the Council, which recently appointed well-known defense lawyer Robert P. Trout to investigate the matter.

Fenty skipped getting the Council's approval for the contracts by funneling the funds through the D.C. Housing Authority, rather than the parks agency, according to Washington Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe. In the process, two of Fenty's former frat brothers and friends -- Sinclair Skinner and Omar Karim -- earned about $700,000 and $4.2 million, respectively, through their involvement in those projects.

It's not the first time Fenty's friends have benefitted from their relationship with the mayor. Last May, Fenty gave thousands of dollars worth of baseball tickets to campaign contributors and longtime friends, according to WTOP.

As part of the stadium lease agreement the District receives 86 tickets to every home game, including two sky suites. The tickets do not have a face value printed on them, but skysuites at Nationals Ballpark range from $150,000 per season to $440,000 depending on the size and location. Individual game tickets range from $10 to $50 each.

The mayor controlled all 86 tickets for the first 16 games. Using $30 as an average ticket value puts the total value of taxpayer-owned tickets given away by the mayor at more than $40,000.  

The mayor finally gave Council Chairman Vince Gray tickets for the council's skysuite at the ballpark, but only after weeks of public bickering between the council and the mayor.

Fenty also allowed his friend Keith Lomax to drive him around in a city-owned Lincoln Navigator. After city officials started debating whether Fenty's actions were legal, the mayor admitted he "made a bad decision" and that "it shouldn't have happened and won't happen again."

Except for the favoritism part. Lomax's construction company has received nearly $16 million in D.C. contracts since Fenty took office, the Post noted. 

Even former D.C. mayor Marion Barry -- who was recently censured by the Council for awarding contracts to a girlfriend -- told the newspaper that the Fenty administration's links to the mayor's friends raise questions.

"There's nobody in this government more Afro-centric than I am, but you can't hide behind that," Barry told the paper. "The problem I have is the circle is so small. The same ones over and over again. It's not fair."

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