Attorney General Peter Nickles has determined that the D.C. Housing Authority must send its million-dollar-plus contracts to the D.C. Council for approval.
Such a determination comes less than 24 hours after news broke that the Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has sent a dozen parks-and-rec construction projects worth $81.6 million to DCHA in a manner that eluded council oversight. The contracts subsequently awarded by DCHA have gone to firms with close ties to Fenty—-raising a whole lot of question about the process.
The opinion released this evening came in response to a question posed today by DCHA. In it, Nickles relies on a 1996 corporation counsel opinion that addressed an almost identical question.
So what does this mean?
In essence, Fenty is punting the ball to DCHA. Fenty is shocked—-shocked!—-that DCHA would have bid out contracts without sending them to the D.C. Council first.
This will help him make the case that this work was sent to DCHA because the quasi-independent agency (its operations are accountable to a mayorally appointed board) is better equipped and moves faster than the standard city procurement process—-not because he was trying to avoid council oversight.
But, if that were the case, there would have been a more transparent way to do this: doing what’s called a “reprogramming” of funds from the parks-and-rec capital budget. Reprogrammings are subject to council review. But that’s not what happened here. The money was basically handed to DCHA under cover of night under processes yet to be disclosed.