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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nationís capital
by the editor of The Common Denominator

IT'S CRIMINAL: The Williams administration has long been dogged by accusations of political favoritism in its government contracting, but word comes now from the office of U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein that the scandal in the city's multimillion-dollar recreation center building program has turned criminal.

Robert X. Chambers, a hardwood flooring contractor from Pennsylvania who specializes in gymnasiums, pleaded guilty June 21 in federal court to a charge of being part of a conspiracy to commit bribery related to construction of two new D.C. recreation centers. Prosecutors have so far declined to provide details about which recreation centers are involved in their continuing investigation.

At least one as-yet-unnamed former employee of the District's Office of Property Management has been implicated in the scheme as having solicited bribes for helping Chambers get D.C. government work. In accepting a plea bargain, Chambers acknowledged paying the former D.C. employee, who oversaw construction projects, $38,500 in kickbacks between July 2002 and January 2003.

More related federal charges are expected before summer's end.

Welcome to D.C., Kimberly Flowers. Flowers, who started work June 20 as the newest in a string of directors heading Mayor Williams' Department of Parks and Recreation, appears to have her hands full as the department's extensive construction program continues.

DCPS DIPLOMA UPDATE: Two weeks after most D.C. public high schools completed their commencement ceremonies, officials in Superintendent Clifford Janey's office still don't know how many of those diploma holders presented to "graduating" seniors actually contained an earned diploma.

"The schools are still updating the database with grades, and we have not completed the run of report cards," D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Roxanne Evans told The Common Denominator on June 24. "In other words, we do not yet have accurate permanent records of all of our 12th grade students."

School officials earlier this month said they planned to present graduation numbers to the Board of Education at its monthly meeting on June 15. Now they are blaming the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act for the delay in determining how many DCPS seniors completed requirements to earn their diplomas.

"According to NCLB, we are required to verify our data," Evans said. "We are now going through the process of verifying our data on graduates. We will then return the data to the principals for their review. When the data is complete and accurate, it will be released."

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator