The head of Banneker Ventures, the firm selected to oversee $86 million in construction contracts that bypassed D.C. Council approval, has refused to appear before the Council for hearings on the contracts. The D.C. Council subpoened Omar Karim, the principal of the firm and a friend of Mayor Adrian Fenty's, but Karim responded through his attorney that his schedule does not permit him to appear. His attorney also stated that the subpoena was problematic. D.C. Wire
According to records of government purchases reviewed by The Examiner, the District's Office of Unified Communications (which includes the 911 system) spent $900 on massages for 40 employees as part of employee appreciation and wellness activities. The Mayor's office issued a statement noting that this type of charge will not be authorized in the future. Other details of government spending are also highlighted in the article. Washington Examiner
A Washington Post profile of Mayor Adrian Fenty's governing style touched on some disappointment supporters have had about the level of transparency he's brought to the role. Noting that "when he moved into the Wilson Building, Fenty reconfigured the mayor's suite as a bullpen featuring a glass-enclosed meeting room, a symbol of his commitment to transparency," the article also quotes Adams Morgan community leader Brian Weaver saying, "We had a vision that he would be transformative, young and energetic, open and transparent . . . There would be no backroom deals, and he would take on larger issues that had held the city back." But, Weaver says, "There are still elements of the old machine politics," he said. "It's just got a shinier chassis." Fenty dismisses the complaints about a lack of transparency as "generalizations." The Washington Post
Work performed on D.C. Council Chair Vincent Gray's house may have been undertaken without the proper license, according to a Washington Times review of records related to the construction company that did the work.
The D.C. Council appears poised to consider doing away with the current property tax appeals board and replacing it with a commission staffed by expert appraisers. The Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals evaluates property owners' appeals of their tax assessments, often resulting in lowered assessments and less revenue for the city; it has been plagued by charges of secrecy and the appearance of conflicts of interest (see this opinion piece by William Lightfoot and Marie Drissel that appeared in the Washington Post in December 2007). Legislation would require that members of the newly constituted commission would be appraisers certified by one of two professional organizations -- observers are concerned that there may not be a large enough pool to draw from. Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner has submitted FOIA requests to the District of Columbia and surrounding jurisdictions asking for employment and salary-related records. The project will be updated as the results as the records are received (or the FOIA requests are denied). The first request to D.C. seeking education employment records was met with a response to look at the website, although as the Examiner notes, on the website "DCPS employees are lumped in together with all other city employees and the list is not in Excel-compatible format, which we requested." In addition, the department refused a request for salary-related information.
The Metropolitan Police Department has a new spokesperson, Kevin Palmer, who replaces Traci Hughes. The position handles Freedom of Information Act requests to the department, among other communications responsibilities. City Paper reporter Jason Cherkis apparently encountered some confusion in trying to confirm the news. Washington City Paper
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is still awaiting records that it requested from the District's AIDS office in June, and has threatened to withhold funding if the records are not produced immediately. The city's AIDS administration has come under fire recently for poorly managing its funds and the service providers it contracts with; HUD had requested a program audit and certain financial and other records, some of which the city has failed to provide in the past. D.C. Council member David Catania, chair of the Council's health committee, has ordered the office to gather the documents within 24 hours. Washington Post
At a Monday hearing on the parks and recreation contracts that bypassed D.C. Council oversight, Council members pressed Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Planning Valerie Santos on the whereabouts of two of her staffers that had failed to appear. The Council appeared ready to issue subpoenas to order the appearance of David Jannarone and Jacquelyne Glover. The move follows other instances of administration officials failing to appear before the Council. WTOP
The Office of the Attorney General has filed a motion for a protective order banning the release of government documents that have been produced in discovery in the Pershing Park case, in which the city was sued for illegally rounding up civilians during a 2002 demonstration. The District argues that the order would protect personal information from being made public. However, the language of the order seeks to bar any release of "sensitive information pertaining to law enforcement personnel and law enforcement strategies and methodologies."
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has been captured on video by WTOP investigative reporter Mark Segraves on many weekday training rides with his cycling team -- always accompanied by a D.C. Metropolitan Police Department motorcycle escort. Segraves reports that the police escort has facilitated various illegal moves by the cyclists (running red lights, riding through stop signs, riding on roads where bicycles are not permitted). Segraves used the D.C. and federal Freedom of Information Acts to uncover records that show in greater detail the cost in public resources for escorts and transportation related to the Mayor's training and competing. WTOP
The Washington Times offered a review of the recent history of the failure to share information between the executive and legislative branches of the District government. The article notes that the D.C. Council will convene another hearing today on the parks and recreation contracts that bypassed Council review by being funneled through the D.C. Housing Authority, and that the city's attorney general has been refusing to turn over economic development records to Auditor Deborah Nichols. Nichols has prevailed in court, receiving two orders requiring the records to be disclosed, but the city has appealed. Washington Times
The Metropolitan Police Department's youth investigations division has been leaving sensitive records in unsecured locations, according to a new report issued by the D.C. Inspector General. Recent inspections of the division's offices discovered dozens of boxes of confidential records, including many related to physical or sexual abuse, left lying in hallways and kept in unlocked and unstaffed rooms and closets. Washington Examiner
D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles has said enforcement of the most recent D.C. Superior Court order to turn over its records on two now-defunct economic development entities to Auditor Deborah Nichols is on hold for the time being, pending appellate review. The city fought release of the records related to the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation and the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, seeking a stay from an earlier order requiring their disclosure while the matter was appealed. The latest order denies the stay and requires D.C.
The Fenty administration must immediately give D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols documents of the former Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and the National Capital Revitalization Corp. Read the opinion here.
On Oct. 30, Superior Court Senior Judge Eugene N. Hamilton denied a stay while the District appeals his earlier order enforcing a subpoena Nichols issued for the documents. It is likely that the Attorney General will ask the D.C. Court of Appeals to reverse the ruling. Before Judge Hamilton ruled the District asked the Court of Appeals to stay the subpoena, but that court held the matter in abeyance until Judge Hamilton ruled.