Mr. Graham’s alleged threat to deny the city’s lottery contract to a related firm unless Banneker opted out of the Metro deal is described by D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby as part of his larger inquiry into the D.C. lottery deal. Mr. Willoughby said he did not find sufficient evidence to conclude the council member acted improperly but said his action “may give the appearance that he lost complete independence or impartiality, and may have affected adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of government.”
Mr. Graham wrote in an e-mail Friday that pending litigation limits what he is able to say, but he did note that any actions he took on the Metro board concerning Banneker were due to what he viewed as “fundamental, ongoing problems” with its proposal. He has denied that he linked the two contracts during a meeting with the lottery seekers on May 29. However, as we previously reported, contemporaneous e-mails among those seeking Mr. Graham’s support for the lottery contract refer to the council member’s desire to change the Metro deal. The bidders even discussed whether they could accommodate what they saw as Mr. Graham’s demand until their lawyer warned them off: “This is complete bs and we are getting very close to corruption, bid rigging and other inappropriate conduct,” A. Scott Bolden wrote.
The two contracts were, in theory, unrelated. The city was awarding the lottery contract, Metro the development business. But Warren Williams Jr., then a principal in Banneker, also was bidding, as a partner with a big Greek firm, for the lottery business. And Mr. Williams, after his May meeting with the council member, thought he knew why Mr. Graham wanted Banneker out. A rival development firm, LaKritz Adler, had been one of three finalists for the Metro job, and that firm, Mr. Williams wrote in an e-mail to an associate, is “the developer he [Mr. Graham] wants to see win the site.”
LaKritz had done projects in Ward 1, and its principals and associated entities have contributed to Mr. Graham’s campaigns, giving $1,000 in 2006 and $5,000 in 2010, according to city campaign finance records. Mr. Williams had contributed to earlier campaigns; in a June 2 e-mail to the lobbyist pleading his lottery bid, he wrote: “One other thing that should be mentioned to council member Graham is that we have tried to support him several times during his runs for city council and that he has accepted thousands of dollars that were bundled. . . . So when he ask was I funding his enemies, the answer is no they funded you Mr. Graham.” Omar Karim, Banneker’s president, said he doesn’t recall ever contributing to Mr. Graham’s campaigns.