President Eddy Bullard in The Solomon Scandals is a man of discretion and moderation. He isn’t flamboyantly corrupt like the proud politicians of Chicago or Louisiana. No, Bullard limits his favors to people about whom he truly cares—-such as developer Sy Solomon, a major campaign donor and golfing and poker friend.
Might Adrian Fenty, the “reform” mayor of Washington, D.C., be at least as corrupt as Bullard? I can’t reach any conclusion without knowing all the facts. But a fascinating Washington Post piece today broaches some ugly questions even if the amount of money involved is small compared to millions raked in illegally by Solomon. As a percentage of D.C.’s budget, the total going to Fenty’s cronies might be larger than Sy’s cut of the federal one.
The Solomon in Adrian Fenty’s case is an old friend named Omar Karim, a fraternity brother to whom Fenty appointees awarded a $4.2-million contract for managing a $50-million project renovating parks and recreation centers. The debate isn’t just over whether Fenty favored Karim’s Banneker Ventures over rivals. It is also over the contract’s awarding the developer as much as $700,000 through a nine percent cut of the fees that contractors would collect. Leave it to Sy: he at least was clever enough to keep the prices of his federal leases low enough to reduce the chances of drawing attention. Karim isn’t so smart.
“Nine percent is ridiculous,“ the Post quotes D. Kent Gooder, an expert in government contracting. “They’re already getting a $4 million fee—that’s an equitable charge, maybe a little high. But the additional 9 percent, it’s unconscionable. The D.C. government is getting ripped off.” Fenty sympathizers claim that nothing is amiss and that the extra percentage is reasonable.
Significantly or not, Karim is just one member of a pack of Fenty friends accused of receiving special favors. I doubt that the Washington Post editorial board, which endorsed Fenty in the 2006 election, is very happy.
Detail: Banneker’s Web site, shown earlier in this post, says the name is “in honor of the brilliant mathematician, astronomer and surveyor Benjamin Banneker who worked on the survey for the Federal District, which is now Washington, D.C. Born in 1731, Benjamin Banneker lived a life of unusual achievement. He was an astronomer, predicting future solar and lunar eclipses, compiling the ephemeris for annual almanacs which became top sellers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, mathematician, and surveyor. In 1980, the U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his honor.”