Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said the D.C. Housing Authority broke the law when it recently awarded millions of contracts for recreation projects to firms that had ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty without seeking approval of the D.C. Council. Nickles advised housing authority officials to submit the contracts to the council for approval.
In a letter to the housing authority's interim executive director and general counsel, Nickles explained that expenditures of more than $1 million of local funds must go through the council, regardless of the agency.
Earlier in the day, interim executive director Adrianne Todman said the housing authority was governed by separate procurement rules.
Nickles said in an interview that he couldn't agree. He attached to the letter he sent Todman a copy of a 1996 opinion of the corporation counsel, which reviewed the same issue and came to same conclusion.
The attorney general did not place blame on the Fenty administration, saying the mayor agreed with him after Nickles explained the law. He also dismissed some council members's concerns that the contracts went to firms headed by Fenty's friends and fraternity brothers. "I have no reason to believe there was a problem with them. They were all competitively bid," he said. "The fact that the mayor has friends, has fraternity brothers and goes to a ball game [with them], that doesn't exclude someone from competing for a contract."
Council members had compiled a list of a dozen contracts worth about $82 million for the construction of parks, fields and recreation centers. Banneker Ventures, owned by fraternity brother Omar Karim, was named construction manager of all the projects. Two of the projects list the general contractor as RBK Landscaping and Construction, run by longtime friend Keith Lomax who drew attention earlier this year by illegally driving the mayor's city-issue SUV.