More than two hours into Sinclair Skinner‘s long-anticipated D.C. Council testimony, the controversial friend of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is shying away from his association with Hizzoner.

Skinner, implicated in a shadowy parks contracting scheme that shifted tens of millions across the District government, was questioned today by lawyer Robert Trout, engaged by the council to complete its probe into the contracts. Early questioning went to Skinner’s qualifications, which are sparse—-a certified engineer-in-training since 1998, he has twice failed to pass professional engineer licensing exams. He also testified it was normal practice for his firm, Liberty Engineering & Design, to hire subcontractors to complete technical work it was not qualified to perform, such as site surveys.

Questioning turned to why Skinner chose to establish LEAD. He described a boyhood dream to become a professional engineer, and added that Fenty’s 2006 mayoral victory inspired him to start his firm. “It made me believe that I could do anything that I put my mind to it,” he said.

Trout, picking up on allegations aired in the Washington Post and elsewhere, asked Skinner if he ever indicated to any potential business partners that he had “special clout” with Fenty.

Skinner said he did not recall doing so, but added: “I don’t need to tell anyone I know Adrian Fenty….It’s been pretty well covered” in the media, he said. At another point in the questioning, Skinner said he talks to Fenty “all the time” but never about his engineering firm.

The proceedings have been peppered by dozens of “I don’t recalls” from Skinner and many procedural objections from his attorney, A. Scott Bolden.

Bolden did pull off one coup: He negotiated a rare council lunch break to allow Skinner to ‘recharge his batteries.’ After the break, questioning is set to turn toward Liberty Engineering and Design’s work on the parks contracts.

Photos by Darrow Montgomery