A fired District city employee has filed a $10 million whistleblower lawsuit alleging that he was terminated because he would not steer contracts to one of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s largest campaign contributors.
The suit, filed Monday in D.C. Superior Court by Yinka T. Alao, is the latest accusation that a recent shake-up at the Department of General Services was political retaliation by the mayor’s office.
Alao, the agency’s former chief procurement officer, alleges that City Administrator Rashad M. Young orchestrated his firing in August after he refused to reconsider denying two multimillion-dollar contracts to Fort Myer Construction, a major Bowser donor.
Another fired employee involved in the contracts, Carlos M. Sandoval, made similar allegations last week in a filing with the District’s Office of Employee Appeals.
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) convened a closed-door hearing in the past week to look into the pair’s firings.
Young, who testified before Cheh’s committee, said there was nothing improper about his actions regarding the contract and has maintained that the firings were not politically motivated. He and other officials in Bowser’s administration have said they were concerned that the agency was sidestepping contracting rules meant to favor local and minority-owned businesses.
Firms outside the District won the disputed contracts for demolition and road work at a planned soccer stadium at Buzzard Point and a practice facility for the Washington Wizards at the old St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast Washington.
Maryland-based W.M. Schlosser won the soccer stadium contract even though Fort Myer had a slightly lower price, according to several people with knowledge of the competition. Gilbane Building, based in Rhode Island, won a contract for redevelopment at the St. Elizabeths campus with a $6 million bid; Fort Myer bid $16 million.
In Alao’s lawsuit, first reported by WAMU-FM (88.5), he denied he was discriminating against local and minority businesses and said District officials have defamed him by painting him as a rogue employee.
Alao alleges that the mayor’s office improperly pushed his agency to break up the Buzzard Point contract to give Fort Myer an opportunity to get some of the work. He also says Young had directed officials to not award the St. Elizabeths contract to Gilbane and increase the amount of subcontracting work for Fort Myers.
The lawsuit says former DGS director Christopher Weaver resigned rather than fire Alao.
“Plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for failing to cooperate with the EOM (Executive Office of the Mayor) efforts to award the contract to Ft. Myer,” the complaint says. “In fact, Plaintiff’s actions saved the District almost 10 million taxpayer dollars when he refused to break the law as directed by officials in EOM.”
A spokesman for Bowser declined to comment on the lawsuit. Calls and text messages to Alao and his attorney were not immediately returned.
Cheh said she plans to release documents and audio of testimony from her hearing on the issue, with information on personnel decisions redacted.
This is the second time the District has faced a whistleblower suit regarding Fort Myer Construction, a longtime donor to local politicians and a contracting powerhouse. In 2008, a former chief of staff at the Department of Transportation filed a lawsuit alleging that he was fired after raising concerns about the company exploiting preferences meant for disadvantaged companies. He lost his case in a 2011 trial.