Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Maryland contractor who built a $12,000 fence around the property of D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray acknowledged Tuesday that he is not licensed to work in the District and did not seek a permit before performing the work.

The admission is the latest in a series of embarrassing disclosures about work on Mr. Gray’s home - much of it overseen by a politically connected developer - that have attracted the attention of two D.C. agencies.

Mr. Gray continues to duck questions about who installed an electrical garage door at his home in the Hillcrest section of Southeast Washington.

Bruce Beauchamp, president of Mid-Atlantic Deck and Fence Co., of Gambrills, Md., confirmed to The Washington Times that his company installed a 357-foot-long, 6-foot-tall aluminum fence around the perimeter of Mr. Gray’s corner lot in May 2008.

“How we got into this, I have no idea,” Mr. Beauchamp said, adding that his company rarely, if ever, works in the District and did not obtain a permit. “Our contract says the buyer will obtain the permit. I don’t even know where to get a … permit in D.C.”

On Tuesday, after the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs directed Mr. Gray to obtain permits for electrical work overseen this summer by politically connected developer W. Christopher Smith Jr. and to disclose information about the fence and the garage door, Mr. Gray said, “I was unaware any permits were required, and if they were, I left the determination and application to the judgment of the experts that performed the work.” The Washington City Paper posted his statement on its Web site.

On Monday, Mr. Gray also sat for an interview with WUSA-TV (Channel 9) and said he paid $12,000 for the fence and $500 to a person who was supposed to oversee fence installation and other work at his home last year.

“If [Mr. Gray] advised my estimator that he was going to get a permit but he’s telling you that he paid someone $500 to get it for him, then what am I supposed to do about that?” Mr. Beauchamp said.

Chris Bucca, a veteran residential sales manager at Long Fence Co., a well-established local fence builder, said a fence like the one Mr. Gray had installed would cost no less than $25,000. Told what Mr. Gray paid, Mr. Bucca said, “Either the salesman didn’t know what he was doing or they gave it away.”

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance initiated an investigation of Mr. Gray’s home repairs on Nov. 24 and is scheduled to provide a report within 90 days of that date, said general counsel Kathy S. Williams.

Mr. Gray would not comment for this article. Though his spokeswoman, Doxie McCoy, confirmed the name of Mr. Gray’s fence builder but declined to identify other contractors the council chairman has hired, including the company that installed his garage door - another project that could require a city permit.

On Tuesday, Mr. Beauchamp said the fence project came to him on a referral from a Maryland landscaper with which he occasionally does business, Eastern Grounds and Maintenance, in Bowie.

Peter Schultz, owner of the company, said that in addition to overseeing the fence work at Mr. Gray’s home, he replaced a concrete walkway with pavers, replaced a retaining wall, installed drainage pipes and built two large stone columns at the head of the driveway that serve as anchors for the fence.

Mr. Gray “paid me to coordinate work to make sure everyone was on the same page,” Mr. Schultz said. He declined to say how he landed Mr. Gray as a customer.

According to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, neither Mid-Atlantic Deck and Fence nor Eastern Grounds and Maintenance is licensed to do business in the District. A spokesman said the department actively pursues unlicensed contractors that do business in the District.

The Times reported last month that Mr. Smith’s company, WCS Construction, is not licensed to provide home-improvement services and hired two unlicensed subcontractors to do work this year for Mr. Gray as well. Some of that work required permits that Mr. Gray and his contractors failed to obtain, a regulatory affairs official said in a letter to Mr. Gray on Dec. 4.

The campaign finance investigation of Mr. Gray, which, according to D.C. law, includes authority to examine suspected conflicts of interest, has prompted him to hire veteran lawyer Frederick D. Cooke Jr. Mr. Cooke is perhaps best known as the longtime attorney of council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat.

Mr. Barry had his own fence flap in 1995, when a retired D.C. police officer and a number of volunteer contractors built a fence around his Wilburn Mews home without obtaining the required permits.

On Tuesday, an official with the regulatory affairs department said Mr. Gray has sought answers about the permit requirements for a fence and that the matter could be subject to a hearing before the Public Space Committee, consisting of transportation officials, regulatory affairs officials and a representative from the office of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

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