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City procurement law generally prohibits the District from making advance payments on contracts, but the Department of Public Works did exactly that on the lease for Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown‘s luxury SUVs.
“There was an error made and we should not have paid the entire amount up front,” says DPW spokeswoman Nancee Lyons in a late Friday email.
LL confirmed from three sources knowledgeable about District finance law that advance payments are usually prohibited. (Note: LL’s still trying to find the exact wording of the D.C. code and will post it when he finds it.) A spokesman for Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who is investigating SUVgate and is holding an oversight hearing of DPW next week, confirms that Wells’ office is aware of the procurement law and is conducting a legal review of Brown’s lease. (In case you haven’t heard, the city canceled the leases to the two Navigators procured for Brown after a public uproar over their cost.)
The Examiner first reported that the city had prepaid $17,000 on Brown’s Navigators, citing anonymous sources. One Examiner source said pre-payments were not uncommon, but were unusual for a lease. The source speculated that the prepayment may have been done to get a discount, but city signed a contract to pay $1,963 a month for one of Brown’s Navigators. That doesn’t seem like much of a discount, given that’s a little more than what the city’s paying for Mayor Vince Gray‘s almost identical ride.
LL compared the contract order (it’s PO351377, in case you were wondering) on one of Brown’s SUVs to procurement data online, and found record of a $17,669.82 payment on Dec. 23, 2010, to the leasing company that provided Brown’s ride. The contract for the mayor’s Navigator and procurement data seem to indicate that the Metropolitan Police Department paid upfront on that vehicle too. LL hasn’t yet inquired over at MPD and will update as needed.
If DPW did, in fact, break city law, it appears it wouldn’t be the first time on matters sporty and utility.
Two weeks ago, LL broke the news that it’s illegal for the city to buy or lease SUVs, except for security or public safety reasons. LL noted at the time, and will do so again, that Brown says he was offered a choice between a sedan and an SUV, and chose the SUV. That pretty much kneecaps any possible excuse that Brown needed an SUV for public safety reasons (an excuse City Administrator Allen Lew is using for why he is driving around a 2011 Chevy Tahoe).
LL never heard back from DPW on that issue, but the agency’s director, William Howland, will have to answer to Wells next week.