- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2000

Metro Board Chairman Gladys Mack is an executive with a nonprofit group that receives federal transportation funds through the Metro Board, The Washington Times has learned.

Mrs. Mack, who represents District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams on the board, is paid as a deputy executive director of the nonprofit United Planning Organization (UPO), which has received $200,000 from a $2 million federal grant administered by Metro.

"It seems a little unusual, just the fact that she's sitting there," said Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation. "We'll take a look at it."

The Metro Board today will consider applying to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for a second $2 million grant, from which it would give Mrs. Mack's group another $200,000 as part of a program to fund transportation for welfare recipients to and from work.

"There is not [a conflict of interest]," said Mrs. Mack, who became board chairman in January. "When this matter came before the board, I made a disclosure that I worked for UPO and UPO was one of the agencies that applied for the grant, and I recused myself from voting on the matter."

Before 1994, Metro banned board members from working for companies that did business with the transit authority. Metro instituted the standard after a 1991 scandal in which board members received gifts and trips from Metro contractors.

In 1994, Metro eased its rules to allow board members to work for companies that do business with the subway system as long as the members recuse themselves from votes involving their companies.

Metro documents show that Mrs. Mack recused herself from a vote on Dec. 10, 1998, authorizing Metro to apply for FTA funds. The records identify UPO only as a "potential member" of six groups that would receive funds from the grant.

Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said in a statement that Metro is a "pass through" agency that processes the federal grants and that no Metro funding is used.

The contract between Metro and UPO stipulates that Metro dispatches clients to UPO, promotes the program, maintains information about transportation services to clients, acts as program coordinator and will reimburse UPO.

In addition Metro documents show the board authorized hiring three employees to administer the program.

Peggy Armstrong, spokeswoman for Mr. Williams, said the mayor was not aware of the contract. "Mayor Williams has set high ethical standards [for] all his appointees," Miss Armstrong said. "If there is any question of impropriety, the mayor would look to our our Board of Elections and Ethics to take a look at it."

Kathy S. Williams, general counsel for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, said Mrs. Mack is not considered a public official and does not have to abide by the city's conflict-of-interest rules.

Jeff Nelligan, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general, said he could not comment about the employer of a board member receiving a Metro contract because of an "ongoing investigation" of Metro.

The inspector general is investigating Metro's hiring of high-priced consultants; Mr. Nelligan would not disclose if the probe has been expanded to include the UPO contract.

The FTA also is investigating the hiring of the consultants.

FTA spokesman Bruce Frame said federal regulations do not bar Mrs. Mack from working for a contractor and serving as a board member as long as she has no involvement in the program and does not vote on issues that involve her employer.

Although Mrs. Mack is second in command at UPO, she said she will not be involved in managing the grant funds and will not personally receive any money from the grant. She did not say how she could guarantee that none of her salary would come from the federal grant without her managing the funds.

Mrs. Mack refused to disclose her salary at UPO, which receives about $25 million in public and private grants annually. She has worked for UPO for about seven years and has been a Metro Board member for seven of the past 10 years.

Metro Board members are not paid. It was not clear whether any other board members work for companies doing business with Metro.

The contract between Metro and UPO, the city's largest antipoverty group, was signed by UPO Executive Director Benjamin Jennings on Jan. 28. Mrs. Mack said Mr. Jennings was not available for comment.

The contract states that $1 million in federal grant money and $815,000 of local matching funds will be used to pay UPO and three other groups to provide transportation to jobs for the poor. The money is used to purchase buses and vans that UPO can use for other purposes.

The other groups are the D.C. Department of Employment Services, which receives $400,000; Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, which receives $200,000; and Virginia Railway Express, which receives $115,000.

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