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Media Report Links D.C. Official to Bribery Probe

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By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 2, 2005

A top-ranking official in the D.C. Office of Planning has been named in a Chicago bribery case in which one of his former employees has alleged that the official knew of illegal activities when he worked for the Chicago Park District, according to a media report.

Drew Becher, deputy director of the District's planning office, has been interviewed by the FBI but has not been charged with any wrongdoing, according to yesterday's edition of the Chicago Sun-Times. The newspaper reported that Becher once supervised a Chicago employee who has pleaded guilty to bribery.

Becher came to the District last year from Illinois, where he was chief of staff to Chicago Park District General Superintendent David Doig. Becher attended an all-day senior staff retreat for the planning office yesterday and did not return telephone calls.

Ellen McCarthy, the interim director of the District's planning office, said that Becher had told her "the issue had surfaced" earlier this week. She said she did not discuss the case with Becher in great detail.

"He feels he has nothing to hide," McCarthy said.

Becher's name came up Wednesday when the former Chicago Park employee, Shirley McMayon, pleaded guilty to taking $137,000 in bribes and steering $8 million in park contracts.

In the allegations, McMayon said that her supervisor told her to have a suburban landscaping company cover the increasing expenses for landscaping and lighting work at Millennium Park.

Both Doig and Becher were her bosses, but the Sun-Times reported that McMayon was referring to Becher.

McMayon, who now resides in Park City, Utah, said that the supervisor told her to have the landscaping firm pay the salary of an intern working for the Chicago Park District because the district could no longer afford to pay. The intern was responsible for overseeing the landscaping firm's maintenance work at the park.

McMayon also alleged that the same supervisor told her that she could get her car paid for by "running it through one of [her] contracts," according to the plea agreement. The owner of the landscaping firm, Michael Lowecki, paid McMayon's $22,236 car loan, according to the newspaper report.

Becher, a former Chicago City Hall intern who eventually worked as an assistant in the mayor's office and for the Chicago Board of Education, had been considered a strong candidate to take over the superintendent's position when Doig retired early last year. When Becher didn't get the job, he came to the District.

On the District government Web site, Becher is described as having "more than 10 years experience in planning and government leadership." He came to the District as associate director of operations for D.C. Parks and Recreation, where he initiated CapitalSpace, a comprehensive plan for the city's parks and open spaces. He is also assisting with developing a D.C. Department of Environment.

He currently serves as the deputy director of the Neighborhood Planning and Development/Urban Design division for the planning office.

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.


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