D.C. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke said yesterday he was troubled that the District awarded a $617,220 contract for drug counseling in the public schools to a firm run by businessman John Clyburn, who has acknowledged he was present the night a close companion suffered a fatal drug overdose in 1983.
"I hope we have not put a fox in charge of the chicken coop," Clarke said in an interview. "I can think of nothing more important than protecting our youth from drugs."
Clarke said he would be looking further into the contract and how it was awarded.
Clyburn, chairman of the board of Decisions Information Systems Corp. (DISC), defended the record of his company yesterday in providing drug-abuse services to the District and said he has "never once in my life bought, sold or used drugs."
He generally declined to discuss the December 1983 death of Joann T. Medina, saying he has been advised by his attorney not to talk about it now. In a 1984 interview with The Washington Post, Clyburn said he was with Medina for the 12 hours before she was hospitalized for the drug overdose and that he had found her unconscious in the bathroom of the apartment where they had stayed together that night.
An autopsy found that Medina, a 36-year-old Bureau of National Affairs employe, had the equivalent of 10 barbiturate pills in her blood, an alcohol level equal to 10 drinks and a substantial amount of cocaine.
Federal officials, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. attorney's office, investigated the circumstances surrounding Medina's death, and Clyburn was interviewed as part of that probe, according to sources familiar with the investigation. No charges were filed in the case. Law enforcement officials said yesterday there is no pending investigation into the matter.
Clyburn said "it's crazy" to link Medina's death with the $617,220 contract, which was reported in the Washington Times yesterday.
The D.C. Department of Human Services awarded the contract to DISC after receiving proposals from 11 other firms.
An evaluation team rated a proposal by the Washington Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse as the best, but the department added 10 bonus points to minority bidders, which pushed DISC ahead in total points.
In August, DISC was awarded another contract, for $724,998, without competitive bidding to run a drug and alcohol prevention component of the summer education program.
The $724,998 award was made as an amendment to a $50,000 contract awarded to DISC to develop plans to help improve drug and alcohol treatment programs. City Auditor Otis H. Troupe criticized that award yesterday as improper.
"If there is contemplated a vast increase in the level of effort of the contract, then the contract should simply be taken back and put out to bid competitively," Troupe said.
DHS Director David E. Rivers said the department did not solicit bids for the contract because officials did not start planning the summer program until shortly before they wanted it under way.