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D.C. Procurement Chief Resigns

Office Accused of Costly Mishandling of Contracts, Programs

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 11, 2004; Page B02

The District's chief procurement officer resigned yesterday after his agency's alleged mismanagement of several contracts and programs was blamed for significant financial losses.

Jacques Abadie III, the top official in the city's Office of Contracting and Procurement since 2000, informed City Administrator Robert C. Bobb of his resignation, effective Nov. 15. Yesterday, however, was Abadie's last day in the office, Bobb said.

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The move came a week after an audit by the D.C. inspector general found that a division of Abadie's department had sold used city firetrucks and other emergency vehicles for as low as $25, potentially costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. The report found that the division lacked internal controls and had failed to give some employees training that had been promised after an audit found similar problems four years earlier.

Abadie's leadership also was called into question by some D.C. Council members twice last year.

The first came after news reports that city employees misused government-issued purchase cards to charge personal items. Abadie's department managed that program, which was suspended by the D.C. Council for several months before being reinstated.

Also last year, his office awarded a contract to operate the D.C. Animal Shelter to a little-known Canadian company. That contract was later revoked by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) after animal activists and council members raised questions about the company. The Washington Humane Society eventually was reinstalled as the shelter's operator this year.

Bobb said that Abadie was not fired but that he decided to leave before the end of his five-year contract to deal with personal issues.

"His department has a number of successes, but also a number of high-profile [problems]," Bobb said. "Without casting aspersions on anyone, this is a chance for us to begin on a clean slate. . . . We want to clean up messes where we find them."

Bobb said that even before Abadie's resignation, he had planned to have Herbert R. Tillery, a deputy mayor who recently filled in as chief of the city's Health Department, review the Office of Contracting and Procurement. Tillery will start next week.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who oversees the council's Committee on Government Operations, had been calling for Abadie's resignation since the problems with the purchase cards arose.

On Tuesday, he sent a letter to Bobb outlining that problem and several other alleged mistakes by Abadie's department.

Bobb said that it was a coincidence that the letter was sent days before Abadie resigned. But Orange said he believes that Bobb pressured Abadie to step aside.

"After receiving my letter and a litany of reasons why he should be dismissed, the executive branch had no other choice," said Orange, who has scheduled a hearing on the contracting office for Thursday. "I really believe there needs to be a complete overhaul of how business is conducted in OCP. They need to get back to basics and have some internal controls."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company