Sunday, July 6, 2008
County officials passed up at least two experienced developers when they sought bids to rebuild McGuire House, a vacant senior high-rise on four acres in Oxon Hill, in 2004. The deal instead went to the Amatucci Group, headed by Richard Amatucci, who has helped Johnson raise campaign funds.
Amatucci said he has developed "a handful" of single-family houses in South Carolina but declined to say where.
Other bidders included D.C. developer H.R. Crawford and Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties. Crawford said he could not remember how much he bid, and Pennrose proposed leasing the property for 99 years for $100 or less a year, a company official said.
County officials selected Amatucci's proposal, agreeing to sell the parcel for $1, according to records from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which had to approve the sale.
When a HUD official asked why the county was not charging fair market value, Prince George's officials wrote that the arrangement would reduce the financing costs for the developer and allow for rent subsidies.
Amatucci, 59, described himself as a minority partner in the project, which he envisions as 120 units for seniors. "I'm just a small component of the overall awarding of McGuire House," he said. The Amatucci Group operates out of Amatucci's Potomac home, according to state records.
The main developer, Amatucci said, is AHD, a Bethesda-based company. Together they formed a company called McGuire House LLC, he said in an interview in February.
But the 2006 HUD records approving the sale list only Amatucci because, HUD spokeswoman Donna White said, the county proposed that the land be sold to the Amatucci Group, without mentioning AHD. Amatucci blamed the error on "confusion" at HUD.
Also, state records show that McGuire House LLC wasn't incorporated with Maryland until this March, after The Washington Post asked Amatucci about the company.
"I have no idea," Amatucci said of the incorporation delay. "It's a Maryland company now."
Nothing has been built on the site.
Amatucci has arranged fundraisers for Jack Johnson and contributed $5,600 to his campaigns since 2003. In November 2002, Johnson tapped Amatucci to head his housing transition team.
While Amatucci was trying to secure the McGuire House property, he was also awarded county contracts totaling $300,000 to examine the Prince George's pension system. A retired Fannie Mae administrator, Amatucci said he had no pension experience. Johnson said he hired Amatucci for that work because he "understands performance." And county spokesman James Keary, in response to questions submitted to Johnson, said Amatucci's experience in finance was "relevant and critical" to the McGuire House project.
Amatucci said his relationship with Johnson had nothing to do with his getting the development contract.
He said he "proposed very high-quality senior affordable housing," adding that he had bid on several county projects that he was not awarded. "There was a lot of effort put into this."