February 18, 2021
Contact: Linwood Norman
Save McMillan Action Coalition
Constituents Seek Investigation of McDuffie for
Neglect of Duty, Conflict of Interest Based on Thousands in Political Contributions
A group of Ward 5 residents is asking the DC Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, DC Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas and DC Auditor Kathy Patterson to examine the repeated failure of Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie to answer their appeals for protection from likely asbestos exposure from the gigantic McMillan development project in the heart of Ward 5.
The 12 residents assert Mr. McDuffie’s complete lack of response is due to his receiving numerous campaign contributions and other benefits from developers and others associated with the McMillan project. For example, persons associated with Holland & Knight, the city’s premier land-use/zoning law firm, and other developers and proponents have given well more than $15,000 in contributions to McDuffie while also having ties with the McMillan development project.
Find details at this link: http://dcpowerplayers.com/DCPP/dcpp_Profile.aspx?&sCandID=16805
The residents’ requests for a meeting with Mr. McDuffie – and his failure to even acknowledge their requests — are documented in the attached letter to the three agencies. The residents repeated these concerns in a December 23 letter to Mr. McDuffie:
“We have sent you and your staff a number of emails to request a meeting about potential health and safety hazards regarding the possible demolition of McMillan Park. While we understand your position is in favor of privatizing the public park land for luxury residential and commercial development, clearly you must also want the project to be done safely if it proceeds.”
See additional information at: http://www.dcfeedback.com/fit2print/dc/412
The asbestos threat was presented in sworn testimony at a hearing convened by the DC Office of Administrative Hearings. Charles Lockett, retired from the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command said: “Given the era of construction in the early 1900s [when McMillan Park was built], it is likely the concrete was woven with asbestos as it was applied… If the project…were to proceed, there will be significant dust-made airborne [material], perhaps with asbestos fibers.”
However, requests for information and discussion of the potential asbestos health threats have been stonewalled by DC Government officials. Specifically, Melissa Peffers, a Bloomingdale resident who lives near McMillan Park, was told in response to her Freedom of Information Act request:
“The District Department of the Environment has reviewed the Environmental Impact Screening Form (EISF) and related documents for this project…” However, the information she received failed to include any supporting documents showing on what basis the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE)’s decision had been made. Further, the residents have asked for clarity as to who actually completed the Environmental Impact assessment on the McMillan project. (Find additional information at: http://www.dcfeedback.com/fit2print/dc/400)
The constituents’ letter to the three DC agencies requested an investigation of Mr. McDuffie for his neglect of duty and also his conflict of interest based on the thousands of dollars he has received in political contributions from the developers.
Below is the text of the letter sent to the three DC agencies:
Dear (AGENCY NAME),
We are writing to express deep concern about DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and request an investigation and resolution.
For the past two months, Mr. McDuffie has ignored constituent requests to meet to address health hazards posed by the proposed McMillan Park redevelopment project. A recent engineering assessment, submitted under oath in court testimony, indicates the likelihood that the McMillan concrete underground water filtration system was built with asbestos mixed in the concrete, a common construction practice at the time.
Mr. McDuffie has ignored numerous requests to determine whether DC authorities have conducted asbestos testing at McMillan. Clearly, such an assessment is necessary to determine whether appropriate containment and clean-up measures are necessary before any construction can begin. Without this assessment, there may be severe health hazards to neighbors and others dependent on the city reservoir, located across the street from the Park.
Mr. McDuffie’s DC Council committee assignments should enable him to address his constituents’ concerns. He is chair of the Council’s Committee on Business and Economic Development, with oversight of 20 agencies and commissions, including the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
Official assignments create relationships with the developer community who reap significant financial gains from the privatization of this large public site and historic landmark at North Capitol Street NW and Michigan Avenue NW. This confluence leaves the Councilmember open to charges of conflict of interest. The record shows that members of this community have made substantial campaign contributions and other discrete benefits to him. Companies associated with the McMillan project include Jair Lynch, Trammel Crow, Holland and Knight, and others. Individuals in these organizations have regularly donated large sums of money to Mr. McDuffie’s election activities, as evidenced in these links:
Mr. McDuffie’s failure to address the McMillan Park asbestos issue poses severe health risks for many of his constituents in many ways, most acutely the threat of sending plumes of asbestos through the air if demolition were to proceed.
PRESS RELEASE: Residents Ask Councilman McDuffie to Investigate Asbestos, Air Pollution Concerns at McMillan Park — DC Agency Fails to Provide Asbestos Environmental Reports (November 23, 2020)
PRESS RELEASE: McMillan Park Water System Likely Built With Asbestos, Posing Health Hazard to City Reservoir & Neighborhoods – DC Officials Cannot Prove Environmental Impact Study Was Ever Conducted (November 5, 2020)
Despite our many requests by mail and phone to meet with us, neither Mr. McDuffie nor his office have responded, or even to acknowledge receipt of our concerns. (See Exhibit A – emails and phone calls to Mr. McDuffie’s office).
PRESS RELEASE: McDuffie Ignores Ward 5 Residents’ Request for Meeting About Asbestos Health Risks at McMillan Park — Complaints may be filed with Board of Ethics and Government Accountability; Independent Auditor; and Inspector General (December 24, 2020)
By refusing to meet with his Ward 5 constituents on this serious public health matter, Mr. McDuffie fails to fulfill his obligation of Councilmember. His inherent conflicts of interest deserve the scrutiny of your office.
Mary Pat Rowan
Exhibit A: Attempts to schedule a meeting with Mr. McDuffie/office staff:
Phone message to Kelley Cislo, Constituent Services Director
Public request to Mr. McDuffie and executive staff via news release
Email message to Kelley Cislo
Email message to Mr. McDuffie and executive staff
Email message to Mr. McDuffie and executive staff
Public request to Mr. McDuffie and office staff via news release