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D.C. Auditor Finds Contract Irregularities

Jim McElhatton, Washington Times, May 10

The D.C. Office of the Auditor yesterday disclosed that an ongoing inquiry has found contracting irregularities and questionable payments in the hiring of out-of-town consultants by the offices of the mayor and city administrator.

Citing “inappropriate decision-making” and “apparent pressure from upper management,” D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols said her office is questioning several no-bid consulting deals related to efforts to bring Major League Baseball to the District and to organize a trade mission for city officials to China last year.

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City Administrator Robert C. Bobb emerged as a central figure in Mrs. Nichols’ testimony.

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Robert c. Bobb

One consulting deal under scrutiny called for Oakland City Council member Jane Brunner, a labor lawyer, to earn $185 per hour — up to a maximum of $90,000 in one year — to devise strategies to increase apprenticeship opportunities in the District, according to the auditor’s office.

Mrs. Nichols said the contract was never handled by the city’s Office of Contracting and Procurement as required by city regulations. She said Mr. Bobb’s chief of staff — Mr. Reiskin — executed the contract without “any apparent contracting authority.”

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Also at issue are three purchase orders last year totaling $26,500 paid to consultant Ira Sockowitz, a former Clinton administration appointee. He was hired for work related to a trade mission to China that was led by Mr. Williams and involved several council members, including Mr. Orange.

Mrs. Nichols said the city already was paying for consulting services to Lily Hu and Melinda Yee Franklin for the trip. Funds to Miss Hu, an Oakland lobbyist, and Miss Yee Franklin were paid via a $25,000 flat-fee, sole-source agreement, although Mrs. Nichols said the services were performed without a valid contract.

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D.C. Council member Kwame R. Brown, an at-large Democrat who also attended yesterday’s hearing, called Mrs. Nichols’ findings “incredible.”

“Everyone is breaking the law,” he said.

Original article

(Posted on May 10, 2005)

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