- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh has vowed to hold a hearing to investigate why the head of the city’s property management agency resigned and two top officials were fired amid concerns over their handling of two major contracts.

“There have been some rather strong charges made or suggestions about the shakeup at [the Department of General Services] and whether it involves inappropriate contacts with regard to contracts,” said Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat. “There’s been enough said that really we need some sort of a hearing to clear the air.”

In mid-August, Christopher Weaver, a retired Navy rear admiral, left his post as the director of the Department General Services (DGS). Days later, City Administrator Rashad M. Young ordered the firing of Deputy General Counsel Carlos M. Sandoval and Associate Director Yinka Alao.

Mr. Weaver’s resignation and the firing of the two other DGS officials coincided with the agency’s decision to award two major contracts to companies based outside of the District. The local company that lost its bid was D.C.-based Fort Myer Construction — a major longtime donor to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city politicians.

The two contracts were for major development deals — the $100 million site at Buzzard Point where the new D.C. United soccer stadium will be built, and the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus, where the $65 million Washington Wizards practice arena will be constructed.

The St. Elizabeths contract went to Gilbane Building Co., which is based in Rhode Island. Gilbane submitted a $6 million bid, while Fort Myer bid $16 million, according to a WAMU Radio report that first broke the news of the agency shakeup.

Ms. Cheh, who heads the Transportation and Environment Committee, has not released any details of the hearing. As a council member she can compel city government officials to testify, but Mr. Weaver is no longer a government employee.

Ms. Cheh said she would need majority approval by her committee to conduct an investigative hearing, which would allow her to subpoena nongovernment witnesses as well as request documents and records regarding the contracts.

“I don’t know what would be necessary here, but it’s a nice way to get the information you need to draw conclusions,” she said. “If I can’t get a majority, I can have my hearing, but I might not be able to overcome resistance to testifying.”

Mr. Young has dismissed claims that he stepped in because the contracts weren’t awarded to a major donor of Miss Bowser, saying the problem was with DGS. He declined to speak about Mr. Weaver’s resignation or the firing of the other officials, citing personnel issues.

On WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show Monday, Mr. Young said that he didn’t know that Fort Myer had bid on the contract for either site and insisted that he became involved because of a deficiency in how the agency was scoring applicants for contracts.

Local businesses automatically are given 12 points toward a 100-point score that determines who gets a city contract. But General Services changed that formula and raised the maximum points to 200, which effectively diluted the 12 points given to local businesses. Mr. Young said that change was made without any notice to the mayor’s office.

“A fundamental change in rules without discussion with the mayor or with me is not something we take lightly,” Mr. Young said told WAMU.

He said the new scale that diluted points for local businesses was “indefensible.”

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