"Hi Gregg [Gregory P. Irish, director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services]: The CA [the city administrator, Robert C. Bobb] is hiring the services of Jane Brunner, whom I think you met, to develop a pre-apprenticeship job training program. She is a labor attorney and City Council member and developed such a program in Oakland. He would like DOES to fund this activity (since we don't have budget for this kind of work.) It'll run roughly $7,500/month, so we'll need a funding source that has around $30,000 for the rest of FY 2004. Could you please let me know [whom] to connect with in DOES to get this going? We'll do the contracting, so we just need a funding source, then once she's in the system we'll get together to really scope this out. Thanks. Edward D. Reiskin, Chief of Staff, Office of the City Administrator."
-- From a June 3 report by the D.C.
auditor on the failure of the mayor and
the city administrator to comply with
city procurement law.
JUDGING FROM the way in which sole-source contracts and payments were dished out to Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Robert C. Bobb's former associates in Oakland, Calif., and to another consulting group working on the mayor's trip to China and Thailand last year, no one in the executive offices of the mayor, including Mr. Bobb, seem to have an understanding of, or respect for, the city's procurement and contracting operations. What other conclusion can be drawn after a careful reading of the D.C. auditor's report on sole-source contracts issued by the mayor's office and office of the city administrator? D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols minced no words when it came to Mr. Bobb's behavior: "The City Administrator's action of identifying friends and associates, principally from Oakland, California, for non-competitive, sole source 'deals' with the District government resulted in transactions that were not: above reproach, 'arms length,' completely impartial, and free from the appearance of preferential treatment." The city administrator's transactions with Oakland politician Jane Brunner and Oakland consultants Lily Hu and Melinda Yee-Franklin were not publicly disclosed or subjected to a credible competitive procurement process. Moreover, Mr. Bobb's office allowed the consultants to begin performing services without a contract, which is a violation of D.C. law.
The D.C. government has a long and sordid history of contracting irregularities. We had hoped that they were a thing of the past. The D.C. auditor concluded just the opposite: "It is evident that the [office of the mayor] has not learned any lessons from past procurement debacles." D.C. taxpayers who have endured years of contracting abuses will be disheartened to learn that the auditor's report states that "there have been no discernible improvements in the integrity of the District's procurement and contracting operations." That is a serious indictment of Mayor Anthony A. Williams's stewardship. He must crack down on deviations from law and regulations in his own office. If the executive offices won't set a good example for the rest of the government, then perhaps the inspector general and the D.C. Council should make an example out of them.