More than a dozen D.C. businessmen and lawyers, including at least three political allies of Mayor Marion Barry and a former city department head, are affiliated with the six companies that are competing to win the exclusive rights to sell millions of dollars in advertising on bus shelters throughout the city.
The 10-year contract is expected to bring in about $10 million in revenue from ads placed on up to 500 bus shelters that would be erected by the firm that gets the contract.
Individuals involved with companies seeking the contract include William B. Fitzgerald, president of Independence Federal Savings and Loan Association and a Barry confidant; Arthur McZier, a food service operator and Barry supporter; David Wilmot, general counsel to the Washington Convention Center and Barry friend; and Carroll B. Harvey, former head of the D.C. Department of General Services.
Fitzgerald and McZier have interests in competing firms involved in the much-publicized legal battle over the award of a major city lottery contract.
Concern among city officials about the dispute over the lottery contract has caused them to delay awarding the bus shelter contract, said Gary Altman, acting general counsel of the D.C. Department of Transportation, which is handling the contract award.
"We're trying to make sure our procedures are legally perfect," Altman said.
The lottery dispute has centered on whether the firm originally selected by the lottery board submitted sufficient documentation to show that its minority partners would receive part of the company's revenues.
Altman said he does not expect a similar dispute to develop over the bus shelter contract because it does not address the issue of revenue distribution. Instead, it says preference will be given to a company at least half-owned by minorities.
The selection procedures also take into consideration, among other things, the design of the shelters and previous advertising and bus shelter experience.
The city-sponsored program would not include the 291 bus shelters that Metro now has in the city. There are no ads on the Metro shelters, and none will be permitted.
The company getting the city contract would build and maintain the structures. In turn, it would collect revenues from the advertising sales, and the city would receive a franchise fee of $300 per shelter a year or 10 percent of the advertising sales, whichever is greater.
Fitzgerald has formed a company with a national bus shelter firm, Convenience and Safety Corp. of New York. Wilmot and McZier are part of a joint venture, Potomac Media Associates Inc., that includes TDI Inc./Winston Network Inc., another New York-based firm.
The other four firms competing for the contract are Urban Shelters Inc., a company formed by the Washington Urban League; Pedestrian Bus Stop Shelters Ltd., a group of businessmen that includes former D.C. official Harvey; TransMedia Inc., a D.C. firm including architect Paul Devrouax; and Transportation Median of Chicago.
The city made public a list of the companies seeking the contract, but city officials declined to make available to The Washington Post a complete list of all individuals affiliated with the firms. Thomas M. Downs, the city's transportation director, said release of the names would harm the competitive position of the bidders and was therefore exempt from public disclosure.
The Post sued the city in D.C. Superior Court yesterday to require release of the information.