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The investigation into the management of the Park Southern housing complex took a step forward last week, when IRS agents showed up at the Ward 8 building to seize some of its financial records.
The IRS visit, first reported by NCB4’s Tom Sherwood, came after the agency contacted the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development and the building’s current management company, Connecticut-based Vesta. Agents from the IRS Washington Field Office’s criminal investigation division asked to see the building’s financial records from 2003 to 2013, according to DHCD spokesman Marcus Williams, and took some of them after reviewing the files on Aug. 12.
While it’s not clear what the IRS agents were looking for, Park Southern’s catastrophic financials have amounted to the closest thing Democratic mayoral hopeful Muriel Bowser has to a scandal. Bowser supporter Rowena Joyce Scott ran the nonprofit that owns the building, while Bowser fundraiser Phinis Jones briefly managed it and has been trying to buy it for much less than its appraised value.
The District has been investigating how a $3 million loan to the building was spent, as well as the whereabouts of nearly $300,000 that Jones’ company supposedly collected in rent. After the District seized the property over the unpaid loan, Bowser asked whether the city had the authority.
Chuck Moran, a vice president at Vesta, says he isn’t sure which files the IRS agents took because they were in such disarray after the District seized the property. Vesta kept the records in a locked room after discovering them, according to Moran.
“There was no order, no reason to any of them,” Moran says.
Despite this new sign of federal interest in the complex, though, Bowser is sticking by her refusal to investigate the situation through her D.C. Council committee, which covers housing issues. Bowser rival David Catania has called for a Council investigation, but Bowser campaign spokesman Joaquin McPeek tells LL that Bowser won’t be joining him anytime soon.
“Unlike Mr. Catania, Councilmember Bowser has completely removed mayoral politics from the Park Southern issue, and instead, taken the appropriate measures to refer this to the independent Inspector General,” McPeek writes in a email.
Bowser supports a request from the Office of the Attorney General for a judge to intervene in any sale of the complex, according to McPeek.
Update, 4 p.m.: In the IRS summons provided by Vesta, agents requested a long list of documents, including payroll records, tax records, and church tithing records (Scott is a minister). The summons also requests documents related to a long list of organizations and people, including Jones, Scott, and two companies owned by Jones.
The document also asks for records related to the Ward 8 Democrats, which Scott once ran.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery