There was confusion across D.C. government Tuesday over published reports that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration is poised to award a $400,000 non-bid contract to Peaceoholics, a nonprofit organization that was co-founded by one of the mayor's friends and biggest supporters.
In recent days, both the City Paper and Washington Examiner have published stories stating that Peaceoholics is short of cash and that Fenty is working to secure a $400,000 contract for the gang-prevention organization. The Examiner reported Tuesday morning that the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services would be handing over a check "within a week" to compensate Peaceoholics for work the group performed last fall after the council canceled its contracts.
But in an interview with the Washington Post Tuesday, D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said he's received assurances from Robert Hildum, the interim director of DYRS,
that the story is not true that the agency is not in the process of awarding Peaceoholics a contract.
"I have been assured by Rob Hildum that no check would be written for past work," said Wells, chairman of the Human Services Committee. "It is my understanding that anything that goes out will be competitively bid."
Ronald Moten, a strategist for Fenty's reelection campaign, is a co-founder of Peaceoholics. Since Fenty took office in 2007, Peaceoholics has received more than $10 million in city contracts, including several million dollars from DYRS.
Last year, however, the D.C. Council moved to restrict funding for Peaceoholics, curtailing the group's crime prevention efforts.
Reached by telephone Tuesday morning, Moten also denied that Peaceoholics was expecting an imminent no-bid contract from the city. But Moten said the organization was never paid for gang-prevention work it performed last year, and he conceded its looking for additional revenue.
"I can tell you, if we got $400,000 this week, I would go pray on my knees and thank God," Moten said. "We deserve it... We were in the position (last year) of providing services for 30 children and we had to either drop the children and let them get killed or continue providing services. We chose to continue to provide services."
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Fenty praised Peaceoholics and said he expects the organization will continue to receive contracts from DYRS and other city agencies.
"I believe that DYRS...thinks that they're doing a great job and they will continue to use them as long as they do that great job," said Fenty, noting DYRS began contracting with the group before he was elected mayor.
Reggie Sanders, a spokesman for DYRS, said Tuesday he's looking into the reports that the organization is poised give Peaceoholics a no-bid contract.
Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said in a statement that "Peaceholics has worked with the District providing work for DYRS and other District agencies that has greatly benefited at-risk District youth across the city."
"The organization's work and any agreed upon compensation is subject to the same rules, regulations and accountability measures as any other organization or contractor that does business with the District of Columbia," Hobson said.
Wells said the council would "highly scrutinize any payment made through a no-bid contract."
"This could open a whole can of worms of groups saying they are doing work but not being paid," Wells said. ""It is not acceptable and not good government and highly inappropriate."
Moten, who has emerged as one of the mayor's chief boosters on the campaign trail, counters "children will be killed" by violence if his organization is forced out of business.
Moten said he specifically has his eye on part of the $1.3 million the city council earmarked last year for the Children's Youth Investment Trust Corporation to disperse to gang-prevention organizations working in Northeast. Moten accused D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), Fenty's chief rival in the mayor's race, and Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) of failing to provide proper oversight of those funds.
"That is the money I am expecting and anything else that comes, that's great," Moten said.
UPDATE, 8:10 P.M.: At Wells's request, the story has been changed to clarify that he did not intend to challenge City Paper's reporting. Wells says that Hildum assured him that no payment would be made. However, Wells says that he does not know whether there was previous intent to send money to Peaceoholics.
--Tim Craig and Mike DeBonis