Wrong Turn Leads to Dirt Road

Wrong Turn Leads to Dirt Road

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty let pal Keith P. Lomax drive his city-owned SUV to a sports event and defended this by saying, essentially, “It’s legal if I say it is.”  While DC Attorney General Peter “Virginia Gentleman” Nickles seemed to uphold this notion, DC Auditor Deborah K. Nichols emphatically declared it illegal for anyone but DC Government employees to drive a DC Government car.

Mayor Fenty admitted error this morning, telling reporters “I made a bad decision,” and “”I’m not going to do that anymore. No more letting anyone else drive.”  But this new attitude of humility may have more to do with discouraging scrutiny of DC contract cronyism than with correcting mayoral hubris.

Because the Drivergate incident encouraged Washington Postreporter Nikita Stewart (and WaPo’s Henri E. Cauvin and Meg Smith) to look into Mr. Lomax’s record of DC contracts: $1.2 million under Mayor Williams, $11 million (so far) under the Fenty administration. Mr. Lomax, a principal of RBK Lanscaping and Construction, is a former college basketball player and jewelry salesman, and was a substitute teacher at young Adrian Fenty’s Catholic high school. RBK and its employees have given $6,000 — $8,000 dollars to Mr. Fenty’s re-election campaign.

The SUV-driving incident opened an avenue of inquiry into Mr. Lomax’s past (and a rumored junkyard of questionable activities). But it is not the city’s Lincoln Navigator or its illegal driver that neeeds more scrutiny — it is the vehicle for contract cronyism, the DC contracting process, especially the Local, Small and Disadvantage Business Enterprise certification provisions

Business owners who live in DC get preferment on bids for DC government contracts (so do  minority- and woman-owned businesses and small local and longtime local business enterprises). No wonder Mr. Lomax claims his business is in this Ward 7 3-bedroom condo instead of in Maryland, where he and all known RBK business associates actually live.

This kind of phantom DC business address seems quite prevalent among DC Government contractors, who often live in the suburbs but register the houses of elderly or deceased relatives as addresses for DC certification purposes. It is not unknown for such sham “DC” enterprises to actually represent giant interstate or global contractors, though that hardly seems to be the case with Mr. Lomax.

Next question for Mayor Fenty: will Keith Lomax and other employees of RBK be prosecuted for having “obtained certification by fraud or deceit or … furnished substantially inaccurate or incomplete ownership information … in accordance with DC Law 12-268”? Of course, that’s just a measly $100,000 fine.

A follow-up, Mr. Mayor: will other DC Certified Business Enterprises ever get site visits? Just lend the keys to your Navigator to folks from the Department of Small and Local Business Development. Don’t worry, they can drive your car –they’re DC employees, so it’s legal.

 

Hat tip to Washington Post commenter grclarkdc1Peter for that Peter Nickels’ “Virginia Gentleman” monicker.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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One Response to “Wrong Turn Leads to Dirt Road”

  1. Mike Licht Says:

    An anonymous commenter and self-proclaimed “DC Resident” urges us to repeat rumors about Mr. Lomax and scrutinize his tax records. While the latter is impossible and illegal, the allegations include “dealing illicit drugs … possessing and carrying concealed and unlicensed guns … and common thuggery” in and near Langston Terrace Dwellings.

    Use of a false email address made it impossible to pose follow-up questions. We post this portion of the comment because it repeats charges made elsewhere, while recognizing that all instances of these rumors may stem from the same unverifiable source.

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