To help judge the firms competing to evaluate the city’s proposed deal to build a pro soccer stadium, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) is staying close to home.
Within his home, actually: Carol J. Mitten, a former high-ranking city official who is also Mendelson’s significant other, is chairing the panel, he confirmed Tuesday.
“I went for quality over optics,” he said.
Mitten is one of five members of the technical evaluation panel that will judge four bids on a $200,000 contract to review the proposed $300 million soccer stadium deal for the council. Other panelists include council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), a staffer to Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and council budget director Jennifer Budoff.
But it is the appointment of Mitten, a former head of real estate management for the city, that has raised eyebrows in the John A. Wilson Building.
Mendelson said Mitten is a “extremely well-qualified” for the job, given her city service and status as a certified real estate appraiser. She will not be paid — a fact, he said, that should obviate any nepotism or conflict-of-interest concerns.
Council lawyers gave an initial blessing to the appointment, Mendelson said, though a more thorough review is now underway. The technical panel’s ratings will be influential, but it will not make the final decision on the contractor.
“Are we to avoid or discourage highly qualified people because they have a relationship?” he asked. “If she wasn’t qualified, it would be different. … She knows this stuff 10 times better than I do. You get a better value with her than you do with me.”
Mendelson acknowledged a need for a quick evaluation was a factor is his decision to tap Mitten, with whom he shares his Takoma home. The selected contractor is to deliver a “detailed cost benefit analysis” and “provide expert advice” on the proposed real estate transactions included in the soccer deal no later than Sept. 12 — shortly before the council returns from its summer recess.