You know there's a hot issue in the Wilson Building when you see these three: Fred Cooke, Scott Bolden, and a familiar face from the D.C. Council, Kevin Chavous.
All three lawyers were at today's hearing before Jack Evans' Committee on Finance and Revenue. The issue: the city's lottery contract. For more than two decades, Lottery Technology Enterprises and GTech have had the contract. But now there's a new team in the mix, W2I, a partnership made up of Warren Williams Jr., his wife, Alaka, and a Greek company, Intralot. The city's Office of the Chief Financial Officer has proposed awarding the lottery contract to W2I.
So why were all those high-profile lawyers there? Well, either they were protecting their interests or supporting long-time friends.
Cooke didn't appear to be representing LTE, but he sat with Manning and the LTE group. Bolden didn't sit with Warren Williams Sr. (Jr. didn't show) and his entourage, but he has represented them in the past. He also dragged them out of the council meeting before it was over. They did not reappear. Chavous couldn't sit with his client, it's Intralot, and he is its local representative.
It's unclear what's going to happen to the contract. The council members asked the city officials to answer a number of questions before the council votes next week. Then there's the question of whether the contract will actually make the agenda.
The CFO's contracting officer, Eric Payne, and the Lottery Board's fiscal officer, Jeffrey "Jay" Young, couldn't provide some simple responses such as who actually is the principal owner of W2I or its 51 percent joint partner, W2Tech. Council members were concerned. Warren Williams Jr. has been the topic of two recent controversial issues in the city. He and his father owned Club U, which was shuttered in 2005 after a man was stabbed on the dance floor. Williams Jr., a real estate developer, is also the owner of a building that tenants claimed he allowed to deteriorate as he asked them to move so he could build condos.
After a 3 1/2-hour hearing, questions still lingered. But there were few to respond. Bolden had whisked away his clients. Chavous was also gone. Only one of the lawyers, Cooke, was still there holding court with the Manning group.
Evans said he's going to talk to Council Chairman Vincent Gray about the legislation. If the council doesn't take action, then the contract will be "deemed disapproved." That's different than most contracts, which fly under the radar and are automatically approved, if the council doesn't take any action to stop them.