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The Revolving Door: Despite Ethics Rules, Former Metro Executive Now Lobbying On Behalf Of Metro Contractor

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 03:39 PM

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/waba/2511198017/

(Washington D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) A private email obtained by WAMU shows that Emeka Moneme, a former top executive at D.C.'s Metro, may have violated ethics rules by lobbying his former coworkers on behalf of one of Metro's largest contractors.

Metro says it still believes in the integrity of its contracting process.

Young, charismatic and - by all accounts - well-liked among his peers, Moneme is a prominent and highly connected member of the local D.C. transportation scene. In just the past five years, he's held several top-level public sector positions.

He was chief of staff at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority -- also known as WMATA, also known as Metro. He also served on Metro's Board of Directors. Then former mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Moneme to his cabinet as head of the D.C. Department of Transportation. After a short stint there, Moneme went back to Metro to serve as its Chief Administrative Officer.

But last year, Moneme left the public sector altogether. Now he works for The Carmen Group, a local lobbying firm that specializes in, among other things, transportation.

The Carmen Group's services have been acquired by MV Transportation, a private company that contracts with dozens of transit agencies across the country. Since 2005, MV has been the sole operator of MetroAccess, Metro's paratransit service for people with disabilities.

Since Metro outsources its entire paratransit operation to one company, MV's contract with Metro is hefty - four years with two extension options for two years each, at a total price tag of $540 million. At the time of its awarding, the contract was the largest Metro had ever let, and the largest MV had ever signed.

Later this week, MV's final two-year contract extension comes before the Board of Directors for approval. And, judging by the email obtained by WAMU, Moneme has been using his insider connections within the organization to make sure MV gets it.

The email in question was sent late last year from David Gottlieb, an associate at The Carmen Group. It was sent to a member of Metro's Jurisdictional Coordinating Committee, a semi-obscure group of local transportation agency staffers who advise members of the Board of Directors.

In the email, Gottlieb immediately identifies himself as an employee at "the Carmen Group working under Emeka Moneme." He states that Moneme "is interested in setting up a meeting with you ... to discuss MV Transport and the MetroAccess program. He would like to visit personally with you at your office and he would also prefer to coordinate the meeting so that he could meet with the other members of the Jurisdictional Coordinating Committee ... at the same time."

Metro's Standards of Conduct rules state that former employees of Metro are "permanently barred from working on any matter on which the [employee] participated personally and substantially while employed at WMATA." It also states that Metro employees who have been "significantly involved in procurement activities ... involving a [company] with an actual or prospective business relationship" with Metro may not work for the company on any Metro business "until at least one year" after the former employee's termination date.

Metro says Moneme's final day at there was March 5, 2010. The email was sent on December 9, 2010.

Moneme refused to comment for this story. His supervisor at The Carmen Group deferred comment to their client, MV Transportation. A spokesperson for MV says the company hired Moneme to do "community outreach," not to lobby his former coworkers.

The recipient of the email wishes to remain anonymous, but says Moneme's requests for a meeting were denied. However, the email's recipient also says other members of the 17-person Jurisdictional Coordinating Committee received similar emails from the Carmen Group.

WAMU has contacted all members of the committee; only nine have responded. Of those, all say no one contacted them about MV's contract.

The current director of MetroAccess, Christian Kent, says, despite the email, he still believes the integrity the contracting process is valid. He says no one from the Carmen Group or from MV contacted him. A request for an interview with Metro's General Counsel to determine the legality of the email was denied.

MV's contract extension is scheduled to come before the Board of Directors on Thursday. According to several sources within Metro, it's very likely that it will be approved.

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