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Posted at 07:45 AM ET, 03/05/2010

D.C. Council hires attorney to probe rec contracts

Robert P. Trout, the defense attorney who represented former Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson who was convicted of corruption after he placed $90,000 in marked bills in a freezer in his District home, will lead a D.C. Council probe into recreation construction contracts awarded to firms with ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

The council's retention of Trout elevates its months-long investigation into how the contracts were awarded. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), chairman of the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation, will announce the pro bono hiring of Trout Friday.

The announcement follows the council's unprecedented punishment of Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) after an investigation concluded that Barry had violated conflict of interest laws in awarding contracts and earmarks through his office. The council, which unanimously voted to censure Barry and remove him as chair of his committee, also voted to the refer the public corruption allegations to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In October, the council launched an investigation into the recreation contracts when it learned that the Fenty administration had awarded millions of dollars to the D.C. Housing Authority, circumventing the council's required approval of contracts that exceed $1 million.

Banneker Ventures, a firm owned by a Fenty friend, Omar Karim, won a $4.2 million base contract to manage the construction of parks, recreation centers and ball fields. As project manager, Banneker selected subcontractors to complete construction and perform other work
worth $82 million. Liberty Engineering and Design, owned by another Fenty friend and former campaign staffer, Sinclair Skinner, was among those subcontractors hired.

Last week, a judge ordered Skinner to appear before the council later this month in its investigation or risk fines. The order enforced a council subpoena.

In December, the council unanimously voted to strip Banneker of its contract, but the probe has continued.

Trout will begin his probe of how the recreation contracts were awarded by analyzing recorded testimony of witnesses at several council hearings and documents already gathered by the council.

By Washington Post editors  |  07:45 AM ET, 03/05/2010

Categories:  Nikita Stewart, Nikita Stewart

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