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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 10/05/2011

Mayor Gray defends handling of grass-cutting contract

Mayor Vincent C. Gray defended his administration’s handling of a grass-cutting contract that will be the subject of a D.C. Council committee hearing Friday on whether he exercised “undue” influence in the contracting process.

A Washington Post editorial reported the administration’s initial plans to cancel a contract extension with Baltimore-based Lorenz, which mows grass on city land in wards 3 through 8 and estimates a cost-savings to the city of $4.6 million over the next five years. A contract extension with District-based CBI was not canceled.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) had objected to Lorenz’s contract, saying it is not locally based.

On Tuesday, the council approved an extension at Gray’s request, but Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) also scheduled a Friday hearing on the matter.

At his news conference Wednesday, Gray said the contracts will be rebid. He said he was only trying to ensure a fair price for the city yet be sensitive to locally owned businesses. “That is all this is about . . . being able to make sure companies in the city have an opportunity to do business,” he said.

CBI is certified as a local and disadvantaged business, but some council members question why if it has a District address, it keeps equipment in Prince George’s County.

A reporter told the mayor that media had visited the company’s District address, which was dark and appeared as if it were not in business.

“Maybe they were out cutting grass,” Gray replied.

By  |  12:15 PM ET, 10/05/2011

 
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