News You Didn't See

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, April 11, 2009

Here are a few local stories that your morning newspaper may have missed.

Alumni in the News

Timely information on events involving youths who have been in the custody of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

Alumni Jovan Johnson, 18, and Dimitri Carswell, 17, graduated to the adult criminal justice system last month.

The U.S. attorney's office in the District announced March 26 that Johnson and Carswell were sentenced in D.C. Superior Court on March 24, 2009, to 120 months and 84 months' incarceration, respectively, for six brazen robberies and attempted robberies committed in the District on Nov. 8 and 10 last year.

When I contacted DYRS last week for comment about this latest alumni report, Reggie Sanders, spokesman for director Vincent Schiraldi said, "We are precluded by law from commenting on cases involving individual youth." Such modesty.

D.C. Foreign Aid Program Derailed

Town known as "sexscape" loses District donation.

Until last week, the District was on its way to becoming a competitor of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the delivery of foreign assistance.

An "emergency" rule quietly published in the D.C. Register on March 20 by the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) authorized the city to donate gifts -- a surplus fire truck and ambulance -- to Peaceoholics, a D.C. nonprofit that works with troubled youths.

Peaceoholics co-founder Ron Moten said his group arranged to ship the ambulance and truck to Sosua, a beach town popular with tourists in the Dominican Republic.

Alerted to the transaction, D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) chair of the committee that oversees the OCP, demanded answers from city officials.

Asked by the council's Judiciary Committee chairman, Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), about the Sosua donation and a six-day trip to Sosua by a deputy fire chief at city expense, Chief Dennis Rubin said, "I was clueless." Hapless, too?

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles demanded that the gifts be returned to the District but, after an investigation, found no wrongdoing.

Cheh and Mendelson fear otherwise and have launched a joint investigation.

Now the new part: D.C. officials aren't the only area folks familiar with Sosua.

Last fall, a Columbia University news release announced that the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism had awarded a $430,000 grant to two professors to conduct an alcohol and HIV prevention study in the Dominican Republic, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection among Caribbean countries.

Then it said this about the destination of our ambulance and truck: "Research will be conducted in the town of Sosua, a major international tourist destination dubbed as a 'sexscape' due to the prominence of sex tourism in the local economy." Many of the country's bars, discos, hotels and nightclubs, the release said, "also operate as informal brothels."

Question for Cheh and Mendelson: Is there a D.C.-Sosua mutual aid treaty?

What's the OCP When Friends Are Involved?

Clarence H. Carter is an example of bipartisanship for the Fenty administration. Carter, a Republican, joined the Fenty administration in 2007 after serving as a Bush appointee in the U.S. Agriculture Department's food stamp program and in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Community Service.

Before that, Carter served as Virginia GOP Gov. Jim Gilmore's appointee to the state's Tobacco Settlement Foundation. He was also Gilmore's Commissioner of Social Services, and he worked in Virginia GOP Gov. George Allen's administration.

Carter cut his teeth on GOP politics, working for the Republican National Committee on African-American Political Affairs from 1990 to 1992, an item omitted from his official biography published on the Web site of the D.C. Department of Human Services, where he now serves as director.

After settling in at DHS, Carter used a sole-source contract to hire Dennis Parker, a former associate going back to his days as Virginia's social services commissioner. Parker also served as a consultant to Carter at one point in the Bush administration.

Carter said in an interview this week that when he sought to renew Parker's sole-source contract last year, the OCP said the contract should be open for competitive bidding.

Carter said he instead arranged for an organization under contract to the D.C. Department of Human Services -- the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, in Ann Arbor, Mich. -- to hire Parker as a consultant to work part-time with him. The Corporation for a Skilled Workforce gave Parker a $75,000 contract.

The sole-source route was also unavailable for Bonita Turner, who had worked for Carter in Virginia's Social Services Commission. So Carter arranged for another DHS contractor, the District-based Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, to award a $150,000 contract to Topline Inc., a company owned by Turner. She also assists Carter part-time.

Carter said Parker and Turner are helping him re-engineer DHS's delivery system to make it "person-centric."

I don't make this stuff up.

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