The decline of Park Southern Apartments has touched off a public investigation into whether and to what extent a city leader benefitted from political support from the board president of the nonprofit corporation that owns the facility.
According to the Washington Post in a July 13 article, Rowena Joyce Scott (the board president) faces accusations that “she wielded her political influence to avoid government scrutiny and to benefit personally at the expense of Park Southern’s residents.”
In addition, the article spotlighted an allegation that an associate of Scott’s had not turned over to the city-installed property manager about $300,000 in rent payments collected in March.
Who is that associate? The associate, Phinis Jones, is a contributor and organizer for the mayoral campaign of Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).
According to the Post article, Ms. Scott’s political support for Bowser in the April 1 primary contributed tremendously to Bowser’s win over the incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray. The Gray administration had increased its scrutiny over the Park Southern issues prior to the April 1 primary and Bowser’s win.
Once the primary election dust settled and Bowser had defeated Mayor Gray, Bowser intervened and asked for a meeting among city officials and Scott. That request ultimately generated a meeting between Bowser and Michael Kelly, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). During and subsequent to that DHCD meeting, Bowser and staff started asking the city for legal authority under which the Gray administration had commenced action against Scott and Park Southern Apartments.
According to the Post, Director Kelly asked Bowser to hold a public oversight hearing on Park Southern. As of July 13 when the Post ran the article, Bowser had not held any oversight hearing, despite the fact that she chairs the City Council’s committee on housing matters.
On July 15, Bowser finally asked the city’s inspector general to open an investigation.
Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) is Bowser’s opponent in the November 4, 2014 mayoral election. Catania blasted the timing of Bowser’s call for an investigation, saying, “She has known for three months that her campaign supporters and contributors have been alleged in mismanagement and she did nothing until it appeared in the paper.”