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Government and People
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia
From: Peter Nickles, Attorney General
Date: April 3, 2009
RE: Fire Truck and Ambulance StatementThe Mayor has asked me to look into the issues surrounding the provision of a surplus District of Columbia fire truck and ambulance to the City of Sosua in the Dominican Republic. I have conducted a thorough review of this matter and I am fully satisfied that the disposition was legal and totally proper. This disposition was in the service of important and legitimate public purposes, and I have found no impropriety.
This matter has, however, caused significant public comment and discussion. Out of an abundance of caution and to assure that this transaction raises no further public concerns, I have directed that the truck and ambulance be returned to the District. They are now back in the District.
1. The fire truck, a 1998 Seagrave Pumper (S-104), was purchased for $240.895. The ambulance, a 2002 Ford E-450 (S-671), was purchased for $75,132. Both vehicles had reached the end of their useful life and, although no formal appraisal was conducted, 1 am assured that their market value at the time they were declared surplus was minimal.
2. The District regularly provides surplus equipment to District nonprofit organizations for use within the District. In Fiscal Year 2008, for example, seven District organizations received material such as old furniture and out-of-date computer equipment.
3. The District has provided surplus equipment to District nonprofit organizations for use in foreign countries before. For example, in 2005, the District, with the assistance of a local nonprofit organization, provided surplus property to the citizens of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
4. There was no attempt to hide this disposition. The transaction was facilitated through formal rulemaking which was publicly noticed in the District Register.
5. All District rules and procedures appear to have been followed.
History:Several local nonprofit organizations, including Peaceoholics, Inc., have initiated and involved themselves with programs to take at-risk District youth to the Dominican Republic. While there, the youth engage in sports-based and cross-cultural activities, including such things as boxing matches. The City of Sosua, a largely impoverished community in the Dominican Republic, has been very supportive of these programs. The District Council has been supportive of these activities as well, providing a Ceremonial Resolution last year praising another local nonprofit organization, Faith Productions, for their boxing program in the Dominican Republic. It is in that context that the Mayor of Sosua and his city government requested assistance from the District. Sosua's fire truck is over 40 years old and incapable of providing any protection over three stories, and they have no modern municipal ambulance.
Late in 2007, a delegation from Sosua, including the Mayor of Sosua, traveled to Washington and formally asked the District for a surplus fire truck and ambulance. A truck and ambulance which had been declared surplus were identified, and, following a due diligence trip to Sosua by a District Fire and Emergency Medical Services employee to confirm their need and assess their infrastructure and capabilities, the transfer process commenced. The surplus vehicles left the District's possession at the end of March, with all shipping and transportation costs borne by the recipients, and they were returned to the District on April 1.Surplus Property Process:
The first step of the process by which equipment is disposed of is an agency declaring the property "excess." That involves a formal determination that the property is no longer of use or value to the agency. For FEMS fleet management purposes, fire vehicles are generally excessed after approximately eight years. The pumper truck in questions is ten and a half years old and the ambulance is almost eight years old. Once declared excess, FEMS removes all usable equipment from the vehicles. strips all decals and works with the Office of Contracting and Procurement on the second step in the process. During this second step, OCP offers the equipment to other District agencies (which is rarely an option for FEMS vehicles) and, if there are no willing agency takers, and following a determination that the property is of no further use or value to the District, OCP may declare the property "surplus." The property is then either sold at auction, presented to a District-based nonprofit organization, stored and used for spare parts, or destroyed. Prior to presentation to a local nonprofit, OCP must vet the organization to confirm its tax-exempt status, that it is District-based, and that it is capable of managing the property.
In the case of the fire truck and ambulance in question, the property was first declared excess and then declared surplus, and it was, as our rules contemplate, provided to a District-based nonprofit organization properly vetted by OCP, Peaceoholics. Under those rules, however, the property must remain in the District for a period of time. In order to facilitate the more immediate transfer of the property in question to the City of Sosua, and in accordance with past practice, emergency rulemaking was promulgated and publicly published in the D.C. Register.
I am convinced that those who worked to send the surplus fire truck and ambulance to the Dominican Republic, both Ronald Moten, of Peaceoholics, and his colleagues in the nonprofit community, and those in the District government, including FEMS, were operating with the very best of intentions and with the interests of not only the District but also of those in need in Sosua in mind. It is a shame that this humanitarian gesture was not able to be timely completed. Nonetheless, to assure full transparency, accountability, and to remove any possible concerns members of the public may have regarding this matter, the vehicles are back in the District's possession.
COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
April 3, 2009Dr. Natwar M. Gandhi
Chief Financial Officer
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite 209
Washington, D.C. 20004
RE: Travel by Executive Agencies
Dear Dr. Gandhi:
You are aware of the recent news stories about a delegation of District government employees who have traveled to Sosua, Dominican Republic, regarding donation of surplus fire apparatus. We know for a fact that FEMS Deputy Chief Ronald Gill, Jr. traveled January 26-February 4, 2009 regarding this matter. We also know from testimony at an April 1st Council hearing that there were employees from other agencies involved.
Accordingly, we request from your office a detailed accounting of every travel expenditure incurred by the Executive Office of the Mayor and every subordinate agency during the months of December 2008, January 2009, and February 2009. The information should include the name of the employee, the cost to the government, the destination, and the purpose of the travel.
Please provide this information by Monday April 13, 2009. Thank you very much for your cooperation.
Mary Cheh, Chairman
OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
April 3, 2009
Mr. Charles J. Willoughby
RE: Donation of Surplus "Supplies" to Peaceoholics, Inc.
Dear Mr. Willoughby:
We are writing to request your immediate investigation into the donation of suplus “supplies” to Peaceoholics, Inc., and into all related issues including the emergency rulemaking published in the March 20, 2009 D.C. Register authorizing the donation. The “supplies” include a used fire engine and ambulance. We know from FEMS Chief Rubin’s April 1st testimony before the Council that a delegation of District government employees traveled at least one to Sosua Dominican Republic, and that the donation had been contemplated since before June 2008. Further, a Sosua newspaper states that “The Americans will also send instructors to train paramedics and personnel from the fire department on how to use such modern equipment.’
Chief Rubin testified that Attorney General Peter Nickles is investigating this matter. However, it appears from a March 27th D.C. Examiner article that Mr. Nickles may have been collaborating with Peaceoholics co-founder Ron Moten, and from April 1st testimony that Mr. Nickles may have been the one who directed the return of the surplus apparatus to the District, and it is clear that the Office of the Attorney General was involved in the March 20th emergency rulemaking. Thus, there will be an appearance that Mr. Nickles’ investigation will not be at arms-length.
We are greatly concerned about this matter and request your prompt investigation, as it will be independent and thorough.
Mary Cheh, Chairman
Phil Mendelson, Chairman
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