The Fenty administration hasn’t only failed to enforce requirements for hiring of District residents on city-funded projects. It also made it really difficult for the D.C. auditor to find out how bad the enforcement actually is.
District Auditor Deborah Nichols told the council’s Committee on Economic Development this morning that she had to sue the executive in Superior Court for access to 1,000 boxes of records having to do with the now-defunct Anacostia Waterfront Corporation and National Capital Revitalization Corporation, which ran many of the city’s development projects in the mid-2000s.
“I have never understood the basis for their withholding the records from our review,” Nichols said. “There is nothing proprietary or confidential about them…These are public records, for accounting and accountability purposes. As well as performance purposes.”
Despite the committee’s request, no one from the administration—not the head of the Department of Employment Services nor the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development nor any of their staff—came to testify at the roundtable. All the Attorney General’s office sent was a letter saying that living wage regulations were indeed being enforced (Nichols—not Peter Nickles—said there was no way they could know whether they were being enforced, since there’s no oversight).
Which is too bad, considering the Mayor’s office apparently controls the flow of information.
“To get any records we want, whether they’re in the possession of a contractor, an employee, or an independent agency, and If we want to interview someone, we have to go through them,” she said. “And that’s not the way an independent, objective audit that has credibility can be conducted. Because the outcome can be controlled.”
Her frustration was obvious. “This administration doesn’t even consider itself subject to philosophical standards, practices, that you would expect them to have, that you see in national government, local, state governments throughout the country,” Nichols said. “It’s just not the same mentality.”
Councilmember Marion Barry, as is his wont, took full advantage of the opportunity to bash the Fenty administration for its lack of transparency. He also asked Nichols if she’d every seen anything as bad in her career as an auditor.
“This is the worst that I have ever seen it in District Government,” Nichols answered. “It’s just an incredibly disappointing experience. They obviously have no idea how much information is being concealed or not disclosed in an effort, I would think, to avoid questions of accountability being answered.”