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One thing about the Navigatorgate scandal that’s always nagged at LL is the fact that there’s never been a clear accounting of the the initial request made by Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown or his staff for the luxury Lincoln Navigator he wound up with.
In a December email Washington Postreporter Mike DeBonis obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, an aide to Brown references an October request Team Kwame made to the Department of Public Works for a fully loaded Navigator that had a “black-on-black interior, GPS, power moon roof, rear entertainment system and aluminum wheels.” But, as far as LL knows, no one’s been able to find that initial October request.
At a hearing earlier this month held by Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, DPW Director Bill Howland testified under oath that the initial request for a Navigator was made on Nov. 3, a day after Brown won the general election.
“When was the initial request made to DPW to procure the vehicle for the chairman?” Wells asked.
“The day after the election,” Howland responded, adding that “Larry Cooper and the chairman’s staff contacted my staff about the specifications for the vehicle.” (Cooper is the head of the Council’s Support Services Division, according to council staff.)
Later in the hearing, Wells read the aide’s email that references an October request and asked Howland about the discrepancy.
“I was contacted the day after the election. I’ll double check to see if my staff was contacted in advance of that, but I know that personally I received a call on the Wednesday after the election,” Howland said.
Unsurprisingly, Howland’s testimony that Brown asked for a Navigator within hours of winning the general election lead the next day’s coverage of the hearing.
But emails LL just obtained today under his own FOIA request suggest that Howland’s testimony is incorrect, and that SUV discussions might have started earlier.
On Sept. 28, a program specialist at DPW wrote his boss: “Larry Cooper called me today and put us on point that the new Council Chair (K. Brown) will need a new vehicle of his own. Currently, [Fleet Management Administration] is leasing a Chevy Tahoe for Mr. Gray. Should we consider turning in the Tahoe for a vehicle of Mr. Brown’s choosing or go into another direction?”
The boss took the request to Howland, who responded in a Sept. 29 email: “Yes, go ahead and work with CM Brown on what type of vehicle he wants. We need to coordinate the return of Chairman Gray’s vehicle with his new vehicle with MPD as well as vehicle for CM Brown.”
LL is currently waiting for Howland to return a call seeking comment and will update if he hears back.
Worth noting: An aide to Wells, who is currently working on a final report about DPW vehicle procurement, said the councilmember’s office requested all of the DPW documents, including emails, related to Brown’s Navigator. But, says the aide, DPW never produced the emails LL obtained through his FOIA request.
Update: Here’s DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant‘s reply:
Regarding the September 29 e-mail you received through FOIA, I just want to remind you that DPW is responsible for acquiring a vehicle for the Council Chairman. In the email message of September 29, Mr. Howland acknowledges that the agency received the request to order a vehicle and directed the staff to handle the task. In Mr. Howland’s testimony on March 17, he was referring to having learned about the specifics of the request after the General Election. As such, there was no contradiction as you are implying.