Thursday, November 19, 2009

Repair work performed on D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray’s house this summer by a politically connected developer’s company was outside the normal scope of practice, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Carol Chatham, a spokeswoman for W. Christopher Smith Jr., chairman and CEO of megadeveloper William C. Smith & Co., said the company that worked for Mr. Gray “would not ordinarily provide construction management services for minor repairs” unless there was a significant volume of work.

Neither William C. Smith & Co., nor the company that managed work at Mr. Gray’s house, WCS Construction LLC, advertise repairs or renovations for single-family homeowners on their Web sites. Both companies have substantial portfolios involving city development projects.

Mr. Gray said he hired WCS Construction this summer to develop architectural plans for a major home renovation that has yet to begin. He said he paid for all services.

On Wednesday, he said that during the planning phase of the renovation, the company supervised minor repairs performed by subcontractors. “We were in the architectural development phase,” Mr. Gray told NewsChannel 8. “The other work was incidental.”

Asked whether the repairs WCS Construction did were predicated on a larger renovation to take place in the future, Ms. Chatham replied, “I can’t say that.”

Ms. Chatham also was unable to point to any other examples of construction management jobs for single-family homeowners that involved minor repairs.

Mr. Gray paid $5,000 for the architect plans. The rest went to subcontractors who power-washed Mr. Gray’s driveway, fixed a lock on the iron gate that wraps around his 12,000-square-foot corner lot in Southeast Washington, installed floodlights, painted the family room and installed wiring for a television, Mr. Gray said on Tuesday.

“We bundled the subcontractors’ invoices and billed Mr. Gray $10,000,” Ms. Chatham said, adding that WSC Construction kept $1,300 as a management fee.

She said Mr. Gray approached Mr. Smith, with whom he has had a personal and business relationship for 14 years, and inquired about home renovation.

“Mr. Smith asked his company president to send out a project manager to Mr. Gray’s home to determine the scope of work and to recommend an architect,” Ms. Chatham said. “While there [Mr. Gray] pointed out that he needed work on his fence and some lighting.”

Mr. Gray earlier this week alluded to other improvements to his property two years ago, but declined to specify the scope of the work or identify the contractor or the cost. He insisted that William C. Smith & Co. did not do the work.

Photographs posted on the Hillcrest Community Civic Association Web site, dated 2001 and 2002, show Mr. Gray’s stately home without a distinctive iron gate that now wraps around the property.

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs stated that it found no permits on the property.

Michael Rupert, an agency spokesman, said Wednesday the director had not decided whether to inquire about any improvements to Mr. Gray’s home.

Also on Wednesday, Ms. Chatham said that William C. Smith & Co. and WCS Construction are separate companies with separate employees, though Mr. Smith owns part of the former and all of the latter. “There’s quite a distinction,” she said.

Of 10 William C. Smith & Co. residential developments listed on its Web site, WCS Construction served as the builder on nine. The company also built seven of 10 commercial projects developed by William C. Smith & Co.

Mr. Smith and the two companies each contributed $1,500 to Mr. Gray’s run for council chairman in 2006. In 2005 and 2006, Mr. Gray served on the board of a nonprofit subsidiary of William C. Smith & Co., which built a major arts and education complex in Southeast that now houses Covenant House Washington, where Mr. Gray served as executive director from 1994 to 2004, when he was elected to the council from Ward 7.

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