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Government and People
|July 10, 2009
Hon. Vincent Gray, Chair
via e-mail PDF
Re: Convention Center hotel funding recusals
Dear Chairman Gray and Councilmember Evans:
The revised Convention Center hotel bill (B18-310) proposes a significant increase in public support for the project on top of the previous TIF commitment, which is already law, for a total subsidy of $206 million. Mr. Evans voted on the original TIF subsidy, and recently has been active and ardent in supporting additional potential public assistance up to 100% of the total cost of the hotel--at one point estimated to reach $750 million—as well as possible D.C. ownership of the hotel. The current newly revised deal appears to place D.C.’s fiscal contribution and subsidy at a commitment level of approximately 40 percent of the project cost, as we understand from evolving publicly disclosed details, including a July 6 article in the Washington Business Journal.
We noted and remarked on Mr. Evans’s four recent recusals regarding B18-310: twice during the June 26 mark-up session of the Committee of the Whole; and again on June 30, on the bill’s first reading in formal Council legislative session. We respectfully request Mr. Evans to disclose fully the reason for these recusals (including any potential or perceived conflicts), as well as any activities and income relevant to this project prior form January 1, 2005 when his immediately prior term of office began, through June 26 of this year.
As Mr. Evans has indicated publicly, the hotel project has been discussed and planned “since 2001,” and to our knowledge he has not recused himself before. Rather, he has been significantly and proactively engaged in moving this project toward fruition as a sitting, voting member of the Council. We also ask Mr. Evans to disclose any attorney-client relationship between his law firm and the Marriott corporation, the anticipated principal of the Convention Center hotel. We pose the following specific questions:
When questions arose during the June 26 mark-up session as to why this project should not be rebid at this time, now that D.C. is willing to provided increased public support, Councilmember Kwame Brown replied that no one had contacted him expressing renewed interest. One interpretation for the lack of interest is that the market is poor. Another may be that potential bidders believe that the deal is somehow “locked in.” This concern is a factor in our request for the above-discussed disclosure.
Accordingly, we respectfully request a public response to these considerations and questions before a second vote by the Council, whether Mr. Evans intends to recuse himself or not. We respectfully ask that no final vote take place prior to a response to our inquiries.
So that these kinds of issues do not come up in the future, we urge all members of the Council to commit to providing more detailed disclosure of outside income, activities, and professional advisory relationships through periodic reporting to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. Should this require new legislation, we would be pleased to offer recommendations once these immediate questions are put to rest.
Thank you for your time and attention.
/s/ Laura M. Richards
/s/ Carroll Green
cc: Hon. Kwame Brown, Councilmember
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