By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 9:58 AM
Did Robert C. Bobb's politicking as the D.C. Board of Education president cost him a consulting gig with one of the city's powerful real estate developers?
It seems that way.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Sen. Mary Landrieu had blocked a Senate vote on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's school takeover legislation. Landrieu (D-La.) has had concerns that the city's state education functions would not be operated with enough autonomy from the rest of the school system. Scott Schneider, a Landrieu spokesman, said she took the action at Bobb's request.
Bobb later denied asking Landrieu to hold up the legislation, and Landrieu removed her hold after speaking with Fenty (D) on Tuesday. But Bobb's alleged role did not sit well with the mayor, who was said to be angry.
In addition to his school board role, Bobb, who served as D.C. city administrator under former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), had been working as a consultant for several firms, including MacFarlane Partners. That company is operated by Victor MacFarlane, a San Francisco-based real estate magnate who has become involved in several high-profile D.C. projects and recently bought D.C. United.
Fenty is weighing a proposal from MacFarlane to develop Poplar Point, 110 federal acres along the Anacostia River in Ward 8 that are scheduled to be transferred to city control. MacFarlane wants to build a soccer stadium, hotel and conference center on the site, but he needs the mayor's blessing and the city's support.
Having Bobb on his team might not help MacFarlane if the school board president is engaged in a power struggle with the mayor over the schools.
On Tuesday morning, Julie Chase, a spokeswoman for MacFarlane Partners, confirmed that Bobb was working with MacFarlane. But she called back a few hours later to say her boss and Bobb had agreed to "discontinue" their relationship.
"He's been a consultant to us, but he also has these other positions he has," Chase said. "It's confusing and a distraction. We're not into politics; we're about real estate."
MacFarlane and Bobb were attending a convention of shopping center developers in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
When asked about the separation from MacFarlane, Bobb said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he and MacFarlane "need to talk." He then acknowledged that anyone who wants to make development deals in the District probably wants consultants who have "a very low profile."