D.C. Council Member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) on Friday defended his vote for a no-bid gambling contract, saying that his sole motivation was the best interests of the District and its residents.
The lawmaker’s statement came a day after The Washington Post published a story about a document that identifies his cousin, Keith McDuffie, as the chief executive of a business that would receive $3 million under the deal.
Keith McDuffie said he is not involved with the business, Potomac Supply Company. Okera Stewart, who is listed in public records as the company’s principal, said the lawmaker’s cousin was mistakenly listed on the document filed with the city by the main sports gambling contractor, Greece-based Intralot.
Keith McDuffie “has no financial ownership interst (sic) in Potomac Supply Company LLC,” Stewart wrote in an email.
Kenyan R. McDuffie issued a short statement Thursday saying he was not aware of records showing anyone other than Stewart running Potomac Supply. He released a longer statement Friday.
“I did not know of any document connecting Keith McDuffie to the sports gaming contract as chief executive or otherwise prior to being contacted by The Washington Post, and to date, I have no information that Keith McDuffie is either the chief executive or an agent of Potomac Supply Company, or that he will benefit in any way from the contract,” McDuffie said.
“Plainly, I was in no way influenced to cast a vote on the sports gaming contract in a manner other than what I believed to be in the best interests of the District of Columbia and its residents.”
McDuffie backed the $215 million, five-year contract with Intralot when it narrowly passed the D.C. Council on a 7-5 margin earlier this month. The contract extends Intralot’s current management of the D.C. lottery and adds a new area — the city’s planned online sports gambling venture.
In February, Kenyan R. McDuffie voted against the idea of sidestepping the city’s usual competitive bidding process to award the sports betting contract. But last week, he joined the narrow majority in approving the no-bid deal.
The District requires contractors to submit subcontracting plans that demonstrate they are meeting targets for including local and minority-owned businesses. As part of that documentation, Intralot filed a document with the city that listed Keith McDuffie as the chief executive for Potomac Supply Company, which is to supply commercial paper products as a subcontractor.
Byron Boothe, the Georgia-based Intralot executive who signed the document, and Emmanuel Bailey, Intralot’s lead local partner on D.C. gambling, have not returned repeated calls and emails seeking comment.
On Thursday, Stewart said Intralot officials may have mistakenly believed the lawmaker’s cousin was involved in his company because he had asked Keith McDuffie to send an email on his behalf about Potomac Supply Company to Bailey.
Stewart said McDuffie helped him because Stewart was having technical problems with his email, and McDuffie is a longtime friend who shares a business address with him.
Lawmakers were divided on the Intralot contract. Some thought it would shore up city finances and help develop local businesses; while others raised concerns about cronyism and suspending procurement rules.
Documents show other subcontractors on the gambling contract have political connections, including a marketing firm led by a former campaign aide to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), a former member of the State Board of Education and a law firm that lobbied for the legalization of sports gambling.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) ignored calls to recuse himself from voting on the contract after The Post reported about his private business relationship with William “Billy” Jarvis, a lobbyist associated with Intralot.
On Friday, critics of the no-bid contract said the suggestion that a lawmaker’s relative may benefit from the deal is “disturbing,” but there is little recourse.
“I find it extremely disturbing, and it adds to the quality of this contract being odious, but we don’t have something definitive,” said Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who voted against the contract. “I don’t really know if there’s a chance to revisit the issue.”