- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

A D.C. government committee asked City Administrator Robert C. Bobb yesterday for documents related to nearly $500,000 in contracts recently awarded to out-of-town consultants, including some whom he knew from his work in California.

A $90,000 contract went to Oakland City Council member Jane Brunner to help negotiate labor agreements to build a new baseball stadium in the District.

A $25,000 contract went to Oakland-based consultants to help D.C. officials plan a trade mission to China last year. WTOP Radio first reported on the contracts.

Mr. Bobb, a city administrator in Oakland before coming to the District in 2003, defended the contracts.

“I have done more and know more about local businesses and minority businesses than any of the critics,” he said yesterday.

The Council Committee on Government Operations wants details about the contracts as part of a larger inquiry into city contracting practices. Council member and Committee Chairman Vincent B. Orange Sr. asked Mr. Bobb yesterday for information on why there was no competitive-bidding process for the contracts.

D.C. law states that officials must justify why they used a no-bid arrangement, which is typically employed when no other competitor can offer a comparable service or product.

Mr. Orange, a Ward 5 Democrat who is considering a run for mayor next year, said the “advance work” for Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ trade mission to China last year might have been available for free through the Chinese Embassy.

Mr. Bobb said “it is always good to look back” when considering whether services could have been provided cheaper or through a local contractor. However, he called the trip — which Mr. Orange also attended — “a very successful mission.”

Mr. Bobb said the contract for Miss Brunner was for a maximum of $90,000 and that she has been paid about $9,000.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, also took steps yesterday in his investigation, sending a letter to city auditor Deborah K. Nichols seeking more information about consulting contracts connected to the stadium project.

Other D.C. Council members said yesterday they would wait for more details before deciding whether the council should hold hearings.

“I do think that baseball contracts should go to D.C. contractors first,” said Kwame R. Brown, at-large Democrat.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said she also wants to know more about the contracts.

“I do have concerns about this money going to consultants, but I’m going to reserve judgment for now until we learn more,” she said.

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