themail.gif (3487 bytes)

June 13, 2010

Conflicts of Interest

Dear Unconflicted Readers:

As I wrote in the last issue of themail, apologists for Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee argue that there was no conflict of interest or self-dealing when she negotiated agreements with foundations that donated millions of dollars to the DC Public Schools, and allowed the foundations to condition those gifts on the requirement that the leadership of DCPS not change — in other words, that she keep her job. The first defense of Rhee is that she didn’t personally negotiate the agreements with the foundations that guaranteed her job. That’s factually wrong. Bill Turque’s useful description of the prolonged negotiations between DCPS and the Washington Teachers Union ( contains this passage: “After a seven-hour meeting in mid-December [2009] ended with handshakes and high-fives, the talks were over in earnest. But the tentative agreement wasn’t complete because Rhee had to sell the deal to the private foundations needed to help finance the contract’s rich financial package, including a 21.6 percent raise and the performance pay plan. In 2008, Rhee said the commitments were firm. But the length of the talks had taken a toll. ‘Apparently [the foundations] were a little more difficult than she anticipated,’ Schmoke said. Rhee said that because of confidentiality agreements, she was limited in what she could tell private funders at the Broad, Robertson, Walton and Arnold foundations about the talks while they were ongoing. ‘The donors were waiting for a long time. They thought we were going to do this in July of 08,’ Rhee said. By the time a deal was finally at hand, she said, the funders didn’t feel compelled to rush.” Obviously, some part of the negotiations with the foundations may have been carried out by Rhee’s subordinates, but just as obviously Rhee was in charge of those negotiations for DCPS. If she objected to a clause that guaranteed her continued employment, she could have had it removed.

The second defense is that the foundations’ agreements contained nothing of personal value to Rhee. That can’t be taken seriously. Guaranteed employment is of value. The agreements may not have contained clauses that called for a raise in Rhee’s pay, but they contained clauses that were of greater personal value to her than a raise would have been — the threat that the millions of dollars the foundations were promising DCPS would be withdrawn if Rhee were fired. If someone approached your employer and guaranteed it millions of dollars of business on the condition that it continued to employ you, wouldn’t that be of value to you?

The third defense of Rhee is that this kind of job guarantee clause is common in grant agreements, that “everyone does it.” There are two responses to that. The first is simple: prove it. Show us the agreements that the DC government has entered into with foundations, nonprofit organizations, or corporations in which a gift to government is conditional on the government administrators of a department or agency remaining in their jobs. If there are such agreements, we need to have them exposed; we need to know what other government officials are negotiating that benefit themselves. The second is that even if other government officials have negotiated such deals in their own interest, it is still wrong. Public officials are supposed to deal in the public’s interests and on the public’s behalf, and not to benefit themselves.

The final defense of Rhee is that the agreements with the foundations were actually signed by the DC Public Education Fund, rather than by DCPS. But the Public Education Fund acted solely as a pass through, and not as an independent dispenser of the funds. DCPS was the designated beneficiary of the funds; there was no chance that the DC Public Education Fund would give them to another organization; there is no evidence that it acted in any way independently of DCPS or Chancellor Rhee. Rhee and Fenty created the DC Public Education Fund, and the director of the Fund is a close personal friend of Rhee’s, who even hosted Rhee’s engagement party

In the end, the argument that the Office of Campaign Finance has no reason to investigate the charge that Chancellor Rhee had a conflict of interest or acted in a self-dealing way in negotiating the foundations’ gifts with these conditions fails — unless it is means simply, “We like Rhee; don’t question anything she does.”

Gary Imhoff


Jack Evans and Patton Boggs: Questions of Conflicts of Interest, Part One
John Hanrahan,

Does the mainstream press in the District of Columbia care about conflicts of interest and ethical problems for members of the DC council other than Marion Barry? If so, why are members of the press corps, of which I was a longtime member, so incurious about the interlocking public-private interests of my Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans? The facts, which point to a glaring, unmistakable appearance of a conflict of interest by Evans, relate to two recent matters of obvious special interest to Evans’s outside employer, the highly influential Patton Boggs law firm/lobbying firm, which pays Evans $240,000 a year for unspecified services:

Evans’s recent unsuccessful effort to provide $25 million — or more, if need be — in tax incentives to defense industry giant Northrop Grumman to move its headquarters to the District of Columbia, rather than to suburban Maryland or Northern Virginia locations that were being considered for the planned move. Evans’s actions helped spark a bidding war between the jurisdictions, as The Washington Post noted editorially on April 14 ( “One of the more distressing aspects of the competition for Northrop Grumman is watching how regional interests get overtaken as governments scramble to outdo each other in offering more inducements.” Further evidence of the bidding war came in an April 19 article in the Post, “Virginia makes a move for Northrop Grumman,” A lot of subsidy for potentially a very few new jobs, but, if $25 million were not enough, Evans was quoted in the Washington Business Journal as saying: “Whatever someone else puts down we’re going to match it and we’re going to beat it,” see

Interestingly, and unreported in the press, Northrop Grumman -- which stood to benefit from the bidding war — is a client of the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group. As I easily discovered when I ran a routine Google search, Northrop Grumman has paid Breaux-Lott $1.1 million in fees over the last two years. For the 2009 report (covering $600,000 in fees for Breaux-Lott from Northrop Grumman), see The firm’s powerhouse owners are former Senators John Breaux, a Democrat, and Trent Lott, a Republican. Breaux Lott for the last two years has had a “strategic relationship” with Patton Boggs. As Patton Boggs’s March 31, 2008, press release ( described it, Breaux and Lott “have agreed to become Special Public Policy Advisors to Patton Boggs LLP.” The release added: “The strategic alliance framework between the two firms will allow the firms to pursue, wherever appropriate, joint projects where the talents of both firms can be employed to meet potential client needs.” Patton Boggs chairman Thomas Hale Boggs weighed in with his own comment at the time: “The strategic relationship between our firms can be a real win-win, not just for each of our firms, but more importantly for our respective current and future clients who can benefit from the capabilities, experiences and skills of both firms.” (Prior to forming Breaux-Lott, Breaux from 2005 to 2008 was a lobbyist and strategist at Patton Boggs.)

According to press reports in March, Breaux-Lott was in negotiations to be acquired by Patton Boggs, Evans, an attorney, is of counsel at Patton Boggs where, according to his 2009 outside income disclosure statement filed last month with the Office of Campaign Finance, he earns $240,000 per year for unspecified services. This is in addition to his service on the council for which he is paid just over half that amount. Appearance of a conflict of interest? Newsworthy? I think so.

At the very time Patton Boggs was negotiating to acquire the Breaux-Lott firm with which it already has an established “strategic relationship,” Evans was pushing legislation that would directly benefit Breaux-Lott’s Northrop Grumman client through $25 million or more in DC tax subsidies. Failing that, the legislation and Evans’ vigorous promotion of it (“we’re going to match . . . and beat” other offers) would still benefit Breaux-Lott and Northrop Grumman by stimulating a bidding war that would lead to Northrop Grumman getting millions of dollars in tax benefits from another jurisdiction. (A merging of Patton Boggs and Breaux-Lott would, of course, make Northrop Grumman a client of Patton Boggs.) For a legislator to promote legislation that would benefit his own firm’s client, or the client of a closely-related firm, is the very essence of conflict of interest, as well as a possible violation of DC law.

Part two of this E-mail will be in the June 16 issue of themail.


Ring Around the Posy
Clyde Howard,

Please somebody remove the blooming idiot who is the Director of DDOT, Gabe Klein. This person had to have been behind the door when brains were passed out. The intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue, NE, is the worst traffic pattern ever designed or supposedly put in place to facilitate traffic and reduce accidents. This new arrangement will cause accidents, traffic tie-ups, and crossover problems between lanes of traffic attempting to go east/west on New York Avenue. Klein thinks he is dealing with bicycles. Two tons of metal and steel are not to be placed in a confusing situation with drivers trying to conform to this new traffic pattern. Where did they find this Klein person? They ought to throw him back like a fish out of water.

I will advise all drivers to avoid the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue, NE. Go in another direction and avoid placing yourself in danger. Klein will get you killed with his crazy ideas on how the traffic should flow. I dare say his staff must be working in a cave. They should be made to drive this monstrosity of ring around the posy.


Streetcars and Light Rail
Dan Gamber, mass transit student,

It would be helpful if discussions were limited to people who actually knew what light rail is. That would be people who have actually used modern light rail in a city such as Los Angeles or Denver. These systems have little actual street running (that is, moving with cars and trucks), and outside the central business area have stops that are much further apart than bus stops. Multicar trains can carry several hundred people, and reach speeds of sixty miles per hour or more. In sum, modern light rail offers most of the benefits of a subway but at a much lower cost. And a modern light rail line will attract far more passengers than a creep and stop bus (e.g., ninety lines in DC).

People who have experienced the streetcars of New Orleans (or Rome, or Hong Kong) should know that they are in a different world. New Orleans in particular (even before Katrina) was more of a poorly run museum system than something meant to move lots of people. We certainly don’t need streetcars to return to DC — but light rail would help fill the gaps in the Metro system.


The Audacity to Run
Leo Alexander,

In the District of Columbia’s short history with Home Rule there have only been five mayors. The first was appointed by President Richard M. Nixon. Only four people know what it’s really like to run and win the office of mayor in the capital city of the free world. For me, the decision to run didn’t come easily. First, I had to convince my wife, a Commander in the US Navy. But once she signed on, we immediately began to chart a course to win the Democratic primary on September 14.

My story begins with poverty. Born to a single mother in Brooklyn, NY, I arrived to DC in 1978. Everything I have accomplished came through struggle, hard work, and faith. After graduating from the University of South Alabama with a degree in political science and sociology, I worked my way back to DC as a TV news journalist in 1995. Long before my years covering politicians, I often wondered why poverty exists. Why are so many poor people disenfranchised and conditioned to the point where welfare and the cycle of dependency have become their sole means of survival? Why is the constant threat of violence in poor communities tolerated? Why are poor people not seen until shots are fired or it’s time to sell them dreams and buy their votes every four years? I have come to one conclusion — it’s the lack of genuine compassionate leadership. My platform begins with attacking the root causes of generational poverty. We can accomplish this by launching an aggressive strategy to stamp out illiteracy, reestablish vocational education, and protect our finite resources of jobs and housing for Washingtonians. My platform lifts the bar of accountability by demanding personal responsibility from all. It’s based on the simple belief that “Charity Begins at Home.”

From the start, my candidacy found its share of detractors. For some it’s simply because I’m not a “native Washingtonian” and born on the wrong side of the proverbial tracks; for others it’s because I’ve never held elected office. It is the Old Guard or the Establishment that I think I most offend. How dare I run? However; once they hear me speak they get it. I see it in their eyes. For years, they have wanted to believe in a candidate with a solid plan to end generational poverty, to put our community back to work, and to restore hope, dignity, and self-respect — so that the family unit is once again stabilized. But then they say, we don’t think you can win. My answer? I can win. I will win. I’m going to deliver and you’re going to hold me accountable. I intend to hold open office hours the first Saturday of every month to hear issues and concerns directly from citizens, and that evening I’m going to hold a town hall (each month in a different ward) to get the word out on what’s happening across the city. And, I’m bringing along my cabinet. Accountability and results in action.

I’m excited about the future of the District and my candidacy for mayor, because I couldn’t have picked two better candidates to run against. The mayor, a career politician, has benefited from the foundation set by his predecessor; i.e., DCPS test scores were actually going up before the Fenty/Rhee era (the last two years SAT scores have declined), there were $1.6 billion in reserves (now nearly depleted by half), and a downward trending murder rate (now armed robberies have spiked in all eight wards). The chair, a career bureaucrat/politician, after supporting every Fenty initiative, has absolutely no platform of his own except, “We can do better.” Until now the media had been trying to shape this into a contest of two styles between Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray, but then the debates began with the emergence of a third candidate with a legitimate platform, an ability to connect with all people, and the skill to articulate his message of hope. The voters of DC finally have a choice: the past (Gray), the present (Fenty) or the future (Leo Alexander). We no longer have to accept mediocrity — our future demands a new direction.


Debt Paid
Valencia Mohammed, Leo Alexander for Mayor Campaign,

The big win for mayoral hopeful Council Chair Vincent Gray, at the June 12 DC Democratic Convention was a debt being repaid by the political organization. Officers within the organization came out in full force to support Gray to help deliver him the victory with 703 votes.

Gray stuck his neck out for the DC Democrats when he (illegally) used his official letterhead and influence to solicit funds from companies that do business with the DC government. The funds were used to help pay for the organization’s expenses at the National Democratic Presidential Convention in 2008. After several groups complained that Gray knowingly violated the Hatch Act, an investigation was conducted by The Office of Campaign Finance, which ruled in his favor. The DC Republican Committee has requested an investigation by the attorney general into the matter, citing that Gray’s actions were clearly illegal and a punishable offense. The investigation is still underway.

Although impressive to many political pundits, the straw poll victory is not an indication of Gray’s chances in the primary. Fenty came in second with 190 votes. Leo Alexander came in third place with 75 votes, despite the fact he has been ignored by the media and lacks the finances of the two elected officials. In the last mayoral election, the victor of the Democratic Convention straw poll lost miserably to Fenty.


T. Lassoc,

[Re: Aeolian Jackson’s recommendation for any new FOIA legislation (themail, June 9)]: Such an excellent suggestion. Makes absolute good sense. A practical, simple, no-cost way to track agency compliance with FOIA requests. Entirely consistent with what’s purported to be the statutory intent/legislative purpose of freedom of information legislation — which means they probably won’t include it, do it, or make it part of any implementing regulations.


InTowner Announcement
P.L. Wolff,

Effective with next month’s issue (July, to publish on the second Friday, as always) The InTowner will be on-line exclusively. Although we will no longer be distributing the monthly print edition, we will continue to publish in the PDF format. Persons not already receiving this notice, for which there is no charge, may send an E-mail request to; simply include your name, postal mailing address, and phone number. This information is never shared with any other lists or entities.

This is to advise that the June 2010 issue PDF (which includes 100 percent of all content, including photos and other images), along with updated current content, has now posted on our web site, Included are the lead stories, community news items, ABC Board action reports, editorials, restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature, this month titled “Finding This Old House — 1401 21st Street, NW.” The Selected Street Crimes feature, which presently covers the period through May 4, will be updated later on, at which time we will provide notification.

The next issue PDF will publish around midnight of July 9 (the second Friday of the month as usual), following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded. This month’s lead stories include the following: 1) “Tabard Inn Gets Reprieve From Preservation Board Which Wants Modifications But BZA Rejects Application for Hotel Use”; 2) “Mt. Pleasant’s Haydee’s Liquor Board Application for Nightclub License Argued at ABC Hearing”; 3) “Neighborhood Generosity Gives Dupont East’s Ross School Library Big Boost.”



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, June 16-17
John Stokes,

June 16, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Ft. Stanton Recreation Center, 1812 Erie Street, SE. Intergenerational Softball Game/Cookout for all ages. Fathers and sons will join together and play a fun game of softball while enjoying a cookout. For more information, call Valerie Arnold at 645-3970.

June 16, 5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N Street, SW. Graduation Party for ages eleven and twelve. Children will come and enjoy food and fun in honor of their graduation. For more information, call Henry Moton IV, Site Manager, at 645-7454.

June 16, Guy Mason Recreation Center (ballfield), 3600 Calvert Street, NW, Congressional Women’s Softball Game.

June 16, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Ridge Road Recreation Center, 800 Ridge Road, SE. Kickball Jamboree for all ages. Ward 7 Boys to Men Club will host its annual Father/Son kickball games. Come and join us to help celebrate fathers. For more information, call Sonny Hicks at 645-3959.

June 17, 5:30 p.m., Congress Heights Recreation Center, 100 Rand Place, SE. Community Cookout for all ages. Food, fun, and games, featuring a basketball game. For more information, call 645-3981.

June 17-20, 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, Maryland. USATF Association Championships for ages six through eighteen. Athletes from the Maryland, DC, and northern VA region compete in track and field events and must place in the Top 5 in their respective events to qualify for the USATF Regional Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. For more information, call Edgar Sams at 671-0314.


New Directions Conference: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy, June 17
Naomi Long,

You are cordially invited to a free upcoming conference, New Directions: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy, being cosponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Black Police Association, and Physicians for Human Rights. The one-day event will take place on June 17 from 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room B338.

This will be the first ever full day conference on drug policy reform in Washington, DC, and will bring together a host of disciplines — public health, law enforcement, social work, treatment, criminal justice reform — to discuss what it really means to get serious about treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. Please RSVP to and forward to others who may be interested.


Fashion Show Extravaganza, June 19
Paula Edwards,

Fashion Show Extravaganza with fashions for and by young people in DC and Maryland. Music by DJ Andy Gee’s; hosted by Hugh and Tisha. Saturday, June 19, at 6:00 p.m. at Shepherd Park Christian Church, 7900 Eastern Avenue, NW. For more information, contact


Urban Animals, June 20
Johanna Weber,

June 20, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Come explore wild Washington as you walk around the Museum’s neighborhood searching for animals in the architecture. This fun-filled family activity is led by children’s book author Isabel Hill and concludes with a hands-on craft project. $10 per child of member, $15 per child of nonmembers. Preregistration required. Ages six and up. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at

All postings should be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)