The D.C. lottery board's decision to delay its selection of a firm to run a daily numbers game came after Mayor Marion Barry personally called several board members and asked them first to hear Deputy Mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson's analysis of the minority participation offered by the three bidders.
Donaldson, who oversees the city's economic development programs, met with the board for two hours Monday and raised questions about the true extent of the minority representation being offered by the three firms--General Instrument Corp., Control Data Corp. and Gaming Systems Inc.
The firms have enlisted at least two dozen black business executives and minority-owned firms as partners in newly formed companies in an effort to win the coveted contract to run the city's first legalized daily numbers game, scheduled to begin in July.
Three board members--Chairman Brant Coopersmith, Jerry Cooper and Almore Dale--said Donaldson did not voice any preference for one of the three firms.
But one source familiar with the board's deliberations said that Donaldson strongly suggested that the minority representation proposed by Columbia Gaming Services Inc.--Control Data's partnership with Sterling Systems Inc., a McLean-based, minority-owned computer company--made it the best choice even though it has proposed charging the lottery board twice as much to operate the game as the other firms.
Barry said through spokeswoman Annette Samuels that he asked the board to hear Donaldson "to make sure the city gets the best deal possible and that there is true minority representation."
Samuels said the mayor did not consider his calls early Monday morning to at least three board members an intrusion, and does not have a preference among the bidders. Donaldson, who could not be reached yesterday, said Monday that he had voiced some concerns to the board but declined further comment.
Cooper said he was surprised at Barry's request that the board hear Donaldson before making its decision, saying, "I don't get a call from the mayor every day or every week or every month."
He said that "to some extent" Donaldson raised questions the board had not considered previously, such as whether the newly formed minority-controlled companies seeking the bids were in any way fronts for white owners.
The source familiar with the board's operations said that Donaldson voiced the opinion that the board should not be "so concerned about price." Paying a higher percentage to a contractor would cost the financially strapped D.C. government millions of dollars over the proposed three-year life of the contract.
The contest for the contract has pitted some prominent local figures against one another. Columbia Gaming's lawyer is Robert B. Washington Jr., a former city Democratic chairman, while one of the partners in General Instrument's venture is William B. Fitzgerald, president of Independence Federal Savings and Loan Association and a Barry confidant. Gaming Systems Inc.'s minority partners are four D.C. companies in the electronics, computer and advertising industries.
The board has asked Alphonse G. Hill, the city's deputy mayor for financial management, and William Jameson, executive director of the city's Minority Business Opportunity Commission, to study the three firms' minority participation and give a report. The board's decision is now expected next week.
Columbia Gaming Systems has asked that it be paid 5.9 percent of the total amount wagered and offered 85 percent equity to its minority partners, according to various sources. General Instrument's partnership, called D.C. Data Co., submitted the lowest bid, 2.5 percent, and has 60 percent minority participation. Gaming Systems Inc.'s local partnership, known as Lottery Technology Enterprises, bid 2.9 percent, the sources said, and also has 60 percent minority ownership.