“Multiple ties,” both personal and professional, existed between Karim and Skinner, but neither would answer detailed questions about the extent of their relationship, investigators said. LEAD, hired by Banneker to do surveying and engineering work, had to hire outside firms and employees to complete its work, the report found, marking up its cost significantly — as much as 400 percent for site surveys.
When the council and its pro bono attorneys tried to unravel the controversy, Skinner and Karim were uncooperative. “The witnesses’ claimed failure of recollection was so extensive and so complete that it was unworthy of belief,” the report said. “Karim and Skinner essentially thwarted the investigation, and their performance left us with the clear impression that they believed they had something to hide.”
The law firm, headed up by Robert P. Trout, concluded that there is evidence of “undisclosed conflicts of interest, or worse, an unlawful scheme” between Skinner and Karim.
But in a news conference outside the John A. Wilson Building hours after the report’s release, Skinner said he was “vindicated” by the report’s findings and lashed out at D.C. Council members who, he said, used unfounded allegations to pursue a political vendetta against Fenty (D).
“What they’ve done is have a smear campaign,” Skinner said, wearing a crimson jacket bearing the logo of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, to which Karim and Fenty also belong.
The report states that there was “no wrongdoing” by Fenty in the controversy that helped unravel his political career in the months leading up to last year’s Democratic primary.
Fenty’s opponent in the primary, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), used the controversy to try to paint the former mayor as unethical. Gray called Fenty “surreptitious, clandestine and circuitous” because his administration awarded the contracts via the D.C. Housing Authority. That meant the council did not have a chance to vote on the spending.
But the report concludes Fenty routed the money through the Housing Authority because of a “sincere desire . . . to expedite the completion” of new recreational amenities for residents.
Gray also frequently accused Fenty of improperly issuing more than $80 million in contracts, but the report notes the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development directed only $6.2 million to the housing agency. Only $4.4 million was in turn sent to Banneker.