As revealed through records released under the District's Freedom of Information Act, many city employees have continued to receive bonuses even during this period of tight fiscal conditions. D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles pointed to contracts entered into in better times to explain recent bonuses. The records reviewed by the Examiner detail the names and amounts of bonuses received since Mayor Adrian Fenty took office in 2007 -- $15 million in all. The Examiner
The District's Inspector General reported uncovering more than $50 million in waste and $125 million in fraud in the city government in fiscal year 2009. The Examiner
Contractors who duck subpoenas issued by the D.C. Council would be barred from receiving new deals with the city for five years under legislation introduced this week.
Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. proposed the bill after two construction managers, one closely tied to Mayor Adrian Fenty, advised through an attorney that they would not submit to a council subpoena on the date requested, citing scheduling conflicts. The Washington Examiner
City officials have opposed unsealing a $20 million sex-abuse lawsuit brought by the father of a youth inmate against a city employee and a D.C. Council candidate, according to lawyers in the case.
A D.C. judge issued the sealing order in October to protect the youth's privacy and safety. But the lawyer for the teen's father, who brought the lawsuit, said he thinks the case should be a matter of public record. The Washington Times
In part due to a backlash to what residents viewed as a proposed speedy and secretive sale of a West End library and fire station in 2007, D.C. councilmember Tommy Thomas has introduced legislation that would require two separate steps when declaring and selling surplus property. The deal that sparked the outrage was never consummated, but did inspire Thomas to review the city's process for handling surplus property. Under Thomas' bill, the city's economic development team would need to submit to the Council an initial declaration that a given property is surplus, followed by the separate submission of a potential deal for the property's sale.
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."