Reform of the District’s CBE Program

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By K. Levek

Mayor Gray has taken the Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) program matter into his own hands. Vetoing a bill proposed by Chairman of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Vincent B. Orange (D-At-Large), the mayor has formed a 17-member advisory group to guide new CBE-reform legislation. Last month Gray vetoed a bill, which had many of the reforms, he called on because he said the council members made changes to the bill that were unworkable. Orange had this to say about the leaving of Pettigrew, “I view this as an opportunity to move forward with CBE reform. I agree that the CBE needs new leadership.”

This advisory group was formed in late March and days following that announcement, news broke that the mayor fired the Director of the Department of Small and Local Business Development, Harold Pettigrew, Jr. The agency’s chief of staff, Robert Summers is now the interim director.

Sources familiar with the matter say that the mayor has been frustrated with Pettigrew for the slow pace of reform within the CBE program and he was let go because he was taking too long to implement some proposed reforms to the CBE program that the mayor announced back in October. Those reforms include plans to hire 10 new staffers who would enforce the program’s rules. Pettigrew has said that 5 of those 10 proposed staffers were due to be hired by the end of April.

The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Victor L. Hoskins, said in a statement that the mayor thanks Pettigrew for his service and wish him the best in his future, as the administration continues to move forward aggressively with the reforms needed for the program. Pettigrew responded saying, “I am proud of my efforts to position the administration for success with managing the challenges of the CBE program, and having laid out a pathway for reform to continue beyond my time with the agency.”

The advisory board includes 17 prominent business leaders from the fields of development, construction, finance and other industries. Some members of the advisory board are already involved in the program, which requires that small and minority owned D.C. businesses get a percentage of all D.C.-funded procurements. Gray announced the team will help him craft promised legislation to reform the plagued system.

Some of the mayor’s picks for the board have drawn criticism because some of the members have ties to companies that have either ignored CBE rules or actively helped companies that critics say have purposely and improperly gamed the CBE program.

For example, the same person, Chris Smith, a huge developer in Ward 8 who owns most of the Parklands development, owns WCS Construction and William C. Smith & Co.. Gray has these two companies listed with two different representatives, when in fact the same person owns them. Gray has responded to his critics saying, “I’m satisfied with the group we have.”

One blogger, Drez, commented about the mayor’s choice for the board writing, “I suppose one way of increasing compliance with the law is to allow those who regularly break it to rewrite it to suit their convenience.”

The advisory board will hold meetings that will be open to the public. Here are the names of the 17 members and the firms or companies they are associated with:

  • Margaret Singleton: D.C. Chamber of Commerce
  • Deryl McKissack: McKissack & McKissack
  • Donna Shuler: Answer Title
  • Natalie Ludaway: Leftwich & Ludaway LLC
  • Pam Bundy Foster: Bundy Development Corp.
  • Loretta Caldwell: L.S. Caldwell & Associates Inc.
  • Rod Woodson: Holland & Knight LLP
  • Bill Alsup: Hines
  • Merrick Malone: The Robert Bobb Group
  • Ernie Jarvis: First Potomac Realty Trust
  • Alberto Gomez: Prince Construction Co.
  • Luc Brami: Gelberg Signs
  • Jim Anglemyer: WCS Construction
  • Pedro Alphonso: Dynamic Concepts Inc.
  • Adrian Washington: Neighborhood Development Corp.
  • Brad Fennell: William C. Smith & Co.
  • Jair Lynch: Jair Lynch Development Partners

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