It was an epistolary blowout today at the John A. Wilson Building! The simmering tensions between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the D.C. Council broke into a shooting war, with letters flying like artillery salvos across the halls of power!
The latest front in this ongoing battle concerns the Fenty administration’s practice, dating to January, of declining to send certain types of contracts to the D.C. Council for review.
Earlier today, Attorney General Peter J. Nickles penned a letter to councilmembers expressing his grave dissatisfaction that their august legislative body had yet to approve a trio of emergency school-security contracts, all necessitated by the sudden implosion of longtime city rent-a-cop provider Hawk One.
“The lack of Council action…is jeopardizing the District’s ability to maintain these essential security services,” Nickles wrote. “There will be no choice but to end security services in the schools and District buildings if this situation is not clarified soon.” Nickles demanded that the council ratify the contracts at its legislative meeting next Tuesday.
That prompted paper to fly from the fingers of Phil Mendelson, who told Nickles he be happy to present the contracts for council approval—-just as soon as he answers three separate letters he’d sent in recent weeks seeking further information on those very contracts!
Said Mendo—-not in a letter, but in an interview with LL: “It seemed to imply that the council would be responsible for the withdrawal of security at schools, but it’s not appropriate to submit contracts after the fact and then demand the council approve them without answering any questions about them. Whatever happened to accountability and transparency, the mayor’s mantra three short years ago?”
Then Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray got in on the act. Late today, he posted to Fenty a demand that he submit all the million-dollar-plus contracts withheld from the council pursuant to a January memo from Nickles.
The request came with a throw-down ultimatum: If the contracts still don’t appear, Grays writes, “On December 15, 2009 I plan to move emergency legislation, which upon approval, will order the Chief Financial Officer to stop payment on all retroactive contracts that have not been ratified by the Council by Act at midnight, on January 20, 2010.”
But there’s some good cop to do along with the bad cop: “I commit to move, for an up or down vote, each retroactive contract that is submitted….I am offering you more than a reasonable amount of time to submit these contracts to the Council to avoid the consequences to the District of a stop payment order.”
The missive closes with Gray doing his best stern-dad act:
I think you know I am a person who prefers collaboration over conflict. But as you also know, as a former six-year member of the Council, we have an important oversight function to perform and the failure to be provided with contracts and other documents impairs our ability to discharge that role. Please submit all contracts that have not been lawfully approved and the requested information as soon as possible.
You got that?