The contracting machinations surrounding the remodeling of Anacostia Senior High School have finally come to an end. On Tuesday, city contractor EEC of D.C. followed in the footsteps of former joint venture partner Forrester Construction and entered a settlement with the District over an alleged fraud scheme to take advantage of city contracting preferences.
It’s fair to say that neither company intended for their work on the school to turn out like this. EEC and Forrester had teamed up on two earlier city projects—-a new headquarters for the Department of Employment Services and Ward 1’s Senior Wellness Center. When their joint venture over Anacostia Senior High School fell apart, however, they earned themselves starring roles in a Washington City Paper cover story and an investigation from the District’s Office of the Attorney General.
The three times that they formed a joint venture to bid on city work, Forrester and EEC took advantage of the District’s Certified Business Enterprise program, which which gives a procurement edge to ventures that include a CBE in order to help District-based businesses grow. By teaming up with EEC, Rockville, Md.-based Forrester got a boost on its bids and theoretically aided EEC, which was legally required to share 50 percent of the work and take 51 percent of the profits.
Except, as the lawsuit against EEC alleges, that’s not what happened at all. Each time, according to OAG, the companies secretly renegotiated the terms of their partnership after winning a contract. With the agreement changed, EEC allegedly amounted to little less than a cover for Forrester to enjoy the contracting preferences.
As part of its settlement with the city, EEC CEO Andre J. Downey doesn’t admit guilt, but agrees not to seek CBE breaks for five years. Neither Downey’s lawyer nor a spokesman for OAG would comment on the settlement.
EEC isn’t facing a fine on top of the five-year ban. In its own settlement, Forrest agreed to receive $1 million less in payments from the District.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery