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Every morning around 7 a.m., Rasheem Multazeem cranks open a steel door and sheds precious light on the ground floor of 2146 Georgia Ave. NW. Located directly across the street from Howard University Hospital, the dilapidated white building hosts a small parking garage on part of its first floor. Above it are offices for the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Peoples Involvement Corp., a local community development nonprofit.
Less than an hour later, Multazeem begins to greet a steady flow of motorists headed in to work at the building. He waves the familiar cars and faces through, making sure that each lands in its assigned parking spot.
Around 8 a.m., a B&B Security Consultants Inc. uniformed special police officer also breezes into the facility. Multazeem makes sure that he, too, ends up in his assigned space: an open-air office complete with swivel chair and metal desk next to Spot 31 in the back of the parking garage. It’s a privately contracted service provided eight hours a day, five days a week, courtesy of D.C. taxpayers. The special police officer closely watches over this 18-foot-by-9-foot piece of city real estate and its daytime contents: a white Cadillac DeVille owned by a D.C. bureaucrat.
Spot 31 at 2146 Georgia Ave., it turns out, belongs to one Viola J. Keyes, the chief of the Office of Investigations and Compliance for DHS. After Keyes parks her Cadillac in her assigned spot in the back of the lot, she spends the rest of her day investigating cases of fraud in the District government’s food stamp and Medicaid programs. Keyes did not return phone calls regarding the duties of the special police officer. Her secretary, Jeunine Edmonds, referred all questions about security in the lot to the DHS Office of Facilities Management.
DHS Facilities Management Chief Morris Vines confirms that Keyes made a request to have additional security on the premises. Vines says that he processed the request for outside help on the basis of Keyes’ recommendation. “She determined the security needs,” says Vines. “When it comes to specifics, that’s up to Ms. Keyes.” DHS officials insist that B&B was hired to oversee the entire lot, not just Keyes’ personal caravan. “The manager’s request was based on the size of the buildingnearly 40,000 square feeta hostile neighborhood environment, and damage to the personal vehicles of employees at that work site,” says Madelyn Andrews, a DHS spokesperson.
Multazeem, however, denies any nefarious activity taking place in the garage under his stewardship. He insists it’s all invented to cover for the fact that the B&B special police officer acts in loco parentis for Keyes’ Caddy while she remains upstairs. He points out that the officer sets up shop only two yards away from Spot 31’s yellow parking space divider, right on the parking deck. One recent Monday morning, the officer spent the better part of an hour leafing through Essence magazine.
“He sits and watches the car,” Multazeem says. “[Keyes] uses part of her budget to hire a private security officer to watch her expensive Cadillac….He often falls asleep. He comes outside [to the garage entryway] in the summertime. He’s fallen asleep out there, too.”
One time, Multazeem recalls, the officer removed his valuables from his pockets to stretch out more comfortably on the sidewalk. When he awoke from his slumber, the valuables were gone.
Multazeem argues that his sphere of garage influence extends far beyond his uniformed cohort’s. He says he provides garage attendant services as an independent contractor with Lower Georgia Avenue Parking, an offshoot of the Peoples Involvement Corp. (PIC). District government workers pay PIC
a monthly fee so that they can take advantage of the parking facility as well.
According to Multazeem, his contract includes opening and closing the facility, general upkeep of the garage, directing cars “on the list” to the correct spaces, and “making sure that nobody don’t violate anyone else’s parking space.” Multazeem subcontracts some of his work to Jameel Aziz, who helps him with day-to-day operations.
PIC backs up Multazeem’s representation. “One guy works for us,” says Drenda Williams of PIC, when asked about the abundance of security in the parking lot. “We don’t have anything to do with the security person….We didn’t hire anybody else. [Multazeem’s] in charge of the garage. Period.”
Multazeem is the quintessential multitasker: His entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t end with his parking contract. He also oversees a daily rummage sale outside his cramped attendant booth located in the front of the garage. Among his wares are many items geared for the neighborhood’s academic community: a computer monitor, calculator, and record player as well as assorted other kitsch.
And then there’s Multazeem’s artistic side. As cars enter and exit the garage, Multazeem peers up from his work drawing charcoal sketches. He checks out the cars, makes sure they’re legit, then returns to his pencil and paper. “I would like to be in Paris one day,” he notes, while simultaneously taking in Godfather III one Friday afternoon. Multazeem has a mini-Blockbuster inside his small attendant booth, complete with TV, VCR, and a choice pack of films: The Empire Strikes Back, As Good as It Gets, The Client, and, of course, all three Godfather movies sit on the shelves. A fax machine, a copy of the Koran, and assorted video equipment add to the clutter.
I ask Multazeem if Keyes’ request for additional security in the lot threatens his sense of professional integrity.
“Why should I be offended?” Multazeem quickly shoots back. “I’m not offended by anybody.”
Multazeem’s carefree style contrasts with that of his uniformed colleague. When asked to detail his responsibilities in the garage, the officer hides behind his silver B&B shield. “Ma’am, you can talk to [B&B],” he politely responds.
“I prefer you talk to them,” he says, rising from his chair. “I can’t provide any more information.”
“Let’s move out of the property,” he says three times, until I get the message.
Multazeem is not pleased with the officer’s approach to security. “He can’t kick you out of here,” he says. “He’s just security for that spot.”
“He just tries to show some type of authority,” Aziz adds. “Which he has none.”
“He was trying to use the Jedi mind-control thing,” Multazeem says. “But his mind is weak….His strength is in his uniform and his gun.”
DHS officials admit that Keyes’ request for special security has raised eyebrows in other city offices, including that of the Inspector General (IG). Andrews says that the IG’s office investigated the case last year. “[T]he IG concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation, that the hiring of the guard was not illegaleven if his function was primarily to guard a particular vehicleso long as the guard protected other government and personal vehicles as well,” notes Andrews.
Multazeem, meanwhile, says he has nothing to hide. “In order for things to improve, things like this need to come out….Isn’t this what this new Anthony Williams is saying?”
“I wonder if he would hire us as consultants,” Multazeem muses to Aziz. “Like Don Corleone says, We’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”CP