- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2000

Cronies of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in exorbitant rent from the District of Columbia each month for buildings the city has had trouble using, The Washington Times has found.
At least five of Mr. Barry’s supporters are leasing buildings to the city, some at excessive rental rates. Those five collect at least $708,655 monthly from city coffers, according to an inventory of the city’s rental properties compiled at the behest of Congress.
Mr. Barry did not return a call for comment about the matter Thursday.
Among his former associates are George Basiliko, Douglas Jamal, R. Donahue Peebles, John B. Webster and Yong Yun.
The largesse, documented for the first time, does not surprise those who have watched the city over the years.
“Barry did this for years. These things do the taxpayers no good. This is the kind of thing that is almost criminal. The city has got to get tough on this,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District.
The Times reported Wednesday that city officials spend $484,000 monthly for six properties that are vacant or barely used. Additionally, the city spends $400,000 monthly for 36 properties where the leases have expired, even though city-owned buildings sit empty. Overall the city pays $5.3 million for rental properties each month, records show.
The city is paying $151,774 or $25.28 per square foot to rent 2100 Martin Luther King Ave. SE, which is owned by Mr. Peebles; and $231,430 or $23 per square foot for 51 N St. NE, which is owned by Mr. Webster.
Mr. Peebles said the city vacated many of the offices in September but has not said which agency will move in or when. He is an old friend of Mr. Barry living in Miami and continuing to develop real estate in the District. In 1994, Mr. Peebles helped orchestrate Mr. Barry’s comeback bid for mayor after Mr. Barry’s 1990 conviction for cocaine possession.
The rental rates are out of line for the period when they were signed. The city’s real estate market was flat for much of the 1990s.
One of Mr. Yun’s buildings, 3720 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, costs the city $71,912 per month or $25.01 per square foot. By comparison, offices in that area typically rent for less than $20 per square foot. The city is paying $154,974 a month or $25.72 per square foot to rent 801 N. Capitol St., one of the most developed office areas of the city and in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. That lease runs until 2015.
Mr. Yun also rents 3220 Pennsylvania Ave. SE to the city for $56,063 monthly. That deal, secured in December 1998, the last month of Mr. Barry’s administration, costs the city $19.50 per square foot and runs until 2008.
In 1997, Mr. Yun pleaded guilty to lying to banks that financed the King Avenue building. He was a Barry crony who remodeled the mayor’s Southeast residence and sparked an FBI investigation into corruption. The probe never yielded any charges against Mr. Barry.
Mr. Basiliko, convicted of auction property bid-rigging and thousands of housing code violations, has trimmed his rental business with the city. Still, he rents at least seven properties for $42,502 in monthly income.
The city has relocated many agencies in recent years, but the moves often leave the city with no less rental space.
Last summer, the Department of Public and Assisted Housing moved to 801 N. Capitol St. from 51 N St. NE.
The Department of Health moved employees to the N Street building. But the moves left almost half the offices empty at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE.
“They’ve been playing this shell game for years. [Mayor Anthony A.] Williams was supposed to stop that stuff, but it looks like Barry’s group still has their hands in it,” said a city source familiar with the real estate deals.
“When the County of Fairfax signs a lease, it’s always subject to an annual appropriation. The city ought to do that, too,” Mr. Davis said. The annual review means the county can reject a rental deal because of financial problems or simply because of a shift in policy, he said.

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