Bobb Helped in Hiring Of Former Associate

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 27, 2005

D.C. Administrator Robert C. Bobb helped arrange for a city contractor to hire one of his former associates from Oakland, Calif., in the District's campaign last year to attract a Major League Baseball team.

Rosie Rios of Red River Associates submitted bills totaling $10,644.91 for her work as a subcontractor from July to September 2004, charging $200 an hour for 16 hours of discussions with Bobb, records show.

She ended up being paid $7,644.91, including $1,800 for nine hours of talking with Bobb and $1,600 for eight hours of Internet research.

Bobb is scheduled to testify this morning before the D.C. Council's Committee of Government Operations on a report by D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols that found the administration of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) circumvented contracting laws when it paid four consultants more than $150,000 last year. Some of those payments went to three consultants -- not including Rios -- whom Bobb knew from his former job as city manager of Oakland.

Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), chairman of the committee, said he learned last week of Bobb's role in the hiring of Rios and plans to ask Bobb about it during the hearing.

"I don't want to jump to any conclusions," Orange said. "I want to give the city administrator a chance to explain this." But Orange added, "It doesn't pass the smell test. Now we have four associates with a direct connection to Robert Bobb who have received contracts on a sole-source basis without competition. . . . It provides an appearance of improprieties."

Rios was Oakland's director of economic development from 2001 to 2003, a job for which Bobb recruited her.

Bobb acknowledged in an interview yesterday that he recommended Rios be hired as an economic development consultant last year for Washington's baseball bid. He said that in the city's haste to secure the return of Major League Baseball, his office may have acted too "fast, hard and furious" in awarding contracts without competitive bidding.

"This is not an issue of waste, fraud or abuse," Bobb said. "This is definitely one of those cases where, in the fast lane, to put in place the appropriate process to get baseball in the District . . . I wanted someone with subject-matter expertise -- someone who had spent countless numbers of hours on financing options and real estate redevelopment."

Bobb said he looked forward to the oversight hearing to address council members' concerns. "We are going to address those instances openly, honestly and in a manner in which I have conducted business through my entire public career," he said. He added that Rios no longer has a subcontract.

Orange scheduled the hearing to let the auditor explain the findings she released last month. Among the contracts she criticized was the city's agreement with Strategic Advisory Group LLC, the firm that hired Rios. The city awarded the firm a $300,000 sole-source contract in January 2003. Despite city law prohibiting the extension of sole-source contracts, the firm's agreement was modified twice, growing to $977,000 between August 2003 and January.

The subcontract with Rios is not included in the auditor's report.

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