- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

D.C. City Administrator Robert C. Bobb yesterday defended himself in response to a sharply critical report by city auditors that concluded he helped arrange no-bid consulting jobs for his friends and former associates.

In sworn testimony before the D.C. Council, Mr. Bobb said members of his staff were responsible for “a handful of instances of technical noncompliance,” but disputed findings by auditors that he arranged the hiring of consultants he knew from his previous job as city manager in Oakland, Calif.

“As a person with a professional track record spanning over 30 years, I have cultivated professional contacts across the country,” Mr. Bobb told the council’s Committee on Government Operations. “I am keenly aware of those whose work can benefit present public needs. …”

Mr. Bobb’s testimony comes after a report released June 3 by the Office of the D.C. Auditor criticizing the District’s decision last year to hire three Oakland-based consultants, including Oakland City Council member Jane Brunner and lobbyist Lily Hu.

Miss Brunner was hired under a $90,000 contract to develop apprenticeship opportunities for the construction of a new baseball stadium in Southeast, though she was heavily involved in the development of a project labor agreement.

Miss Hu and another Oakland-based consultant, Melinda Yee Franklin, were hired to organize a trade mission to China last year for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, five council members and other city officials.

D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols said the arrangements skirted a number of city contracting laws, including hiring persons before a valid contract was in place and writing checks without first getting authorization. In written testimony yesterday, Mrs. Nichols said officials in the executive branch have “not learned from past procurement debacles.”

In the report, city auditors singled out Mr. Bobb. “The City Administrator’s action of identifying friends and associates, principally from Oakland, California, for non-competitive, sole source ‘deals’ … resulted in transactions that were not: above reproach, ‘arms length,’ completely impartial, and free from the appearance of preferential treatment.”

Mr. Bobb disputed that conclusion yesterday. He said officials “did make some mistakes” in the way they handled the consulting arrangements.

“Those mistakes were the product of inexperience and innocent error, not of willful or wanton misconduct,” he said.

Auditors say Mr. Bobb’s former chief of staff, Edward D. Reiskin, who since has been named the District’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, signed off on Miss Brunner’s contract with the city but did not have the authority to do so.

Mr. Reiskin, who before coming to the District served as an assistant to Mr. Bobb in Oakland, said he had Mr. Bobb’s permission to sign the document.

“I didn’t mean to be taking the role of a contracting officer,” he said yesterday.

Mr. Bobb said he knew that Mr. Reiskin signed the document.

“I am absolutely 100 percent sure that Mr. Reiskin would not violate or break the law,” he said.

Mrs. Nichols said yesterday she stood by her report’s findings “1,000 percent.” She also said her office is continuing to look into the hiring of Georgia-based Strategic Advisory Group LLC for the city’s efforts to bring baseball back to the District last year.

One of the subcontractors, Rosie Rios, of Red River Associates LLC, previously was director of economic development for the city of Oakland.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, said Miss Rios’ $200-per-hour work included telephone conversations with Mr. Bobb and Internet research.

“It just doesn’t look good,” said Mr. Orange, Ward 5 Democrat who is running for mayor. “It appears to be preferential treatment.”

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