Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WSSC Commissioner Raises Money – and Eyebrows (Updated)

WSSC Commissioner Juanita Miller has opened a new campaign fund to run for office. That’s not unusual – the former Delegate has run unsuccessfully for County Council and State Senate before. But the identities of some her contributors are sure to make tongues wag.

First, let’s remember some of the highlights of Miller’s service on the Commission. In our prior post, we described how Miller intervened on behalf of the third-highest bidder – a minority contractor – on a 1997 WSSC job that it lost by $2 million. The revelation that the contractor had been a campaign contributor to a prior Miller campaign prompted an ethics investigation. Miller then alleged widespread racism in the agency, a charge that was rebutted by WSSC’s black general manager. And just prior to her 2002 race against Senate President Mike Miller, she revived more charges of racism against minority contractors that were not upheld by the U.S. Justice Department.

Minority contracting is a big priority for the three WSSC members appointed by Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson. In 2004, the Commission unsuccessfully tried to seize direct control of minority contracting from the agency’s General Manager in a closed-door meeting that violated the agency’s bylaws. WSSC Commisioner Prem Agarwal is himself a minority contractor who performed $1.46 million of WSSC work within nine months of his appointment to the Commission after contributing $12,000 to Jack Johnson’s campaign. And minority contracting dominated the Commission's 12-hour January meeting - a meeting that had no discussion of recent pipe breaks.

Now Juanita Miller has established a new campaign fund and is soliciting contributions. (The State Board of Elections does not list the office she is seeking.) Miller has received a total $4,840 through 1/21/09. Among her contributors are:

Friends of Andrea Harrison, Springdale, MD ($300), the campaign fund of the newest member of the Prince George’s County Council and Montgomery Delegate Herman Taylor ($40) of District 14.

Prem Agarwal of Mitchellville, MD ($100), Miller’s fellow WSSC Commissioner.

The Law Offices of Dana Stebbins, Washington, DC ($100). Stebbins is a lawyer who represents minority contractors and is a Prince George’s County resident. She has contributed $9,249.55 to Maryland politicians over the last decade, including $1,750 to Senate President Mike Miller. Longtime Washington, D.C. columnist Jonetta Rose Barras reports that Stebbins convinced Mayor Anthony Williams to fire a D.C. government manager because he demanded that the city’s Community Development Corporations “perform for the hundreds of millions of dollars they receive from the local and federal governments.”

LLP Management LLC of Temple Hills, MD ($50). LLP Management is an MDOT-certified female contractor and a Prince George’s County-listed minority contractor owned by Larhonde L. Patterson. Patterson is a real estate agent who was fined $200 by the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation for “failing to include the Homeowner’s Warranty in the terms of the purchase contract.”

Major F. Riddick of Fort Washington, MD ($200). Riddick is a minority contractor who runs food concessions at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Rajan Natarajan of Burtonsville, MD ($100). Natarajan is the Director of Government Initiatives for Gantech, a minority-owned IT contractor that has done business with many state agencies.

Juanita Miller clearly has admirers in the minority contracting community. At the moment, we do not have evidence that any of the above contributors (other than Agarwal) have performed work for WSSC. If Miller was indeed receiving campaign funding from WSSC contractors, that would be a worthy subject for investigation by the authorities.

Below is a complete list of Juanita Miller’s campaign contributors as of 1/21/09. (Click on the graphic for a larger version.) If any readers can enlighten us about any of them, please contact me through my Blogger profile or leave a comment.

Update: One of our informants claims:

Dorothy F. Bailey is the immediate past district 7 council member in whose district Miller lived. Bailey was replaced (because of term limits) by Camille Exum, daughter of Sen. Exum.

Major Riddick was an aide to a former county executive and has run for county office as recently as 2006.

Sandra Pruitt is an "activist." She led the effort to force out school board member Nate Thomas who was charged with some kind of sexual misconduct with a minor, but never brought to trial or convicted. She is also the driving force behind setting up a second NAACP chapter in the county. She feels the original chapter's president isn't doing the job. Earl Adams (Lt. Gov. Brown's aide) is or was vice president of the original chapter.

Cereta Lee is the PG Register of Deeds. She got the job, despite her lack of qualifications, because Sen. Exum drove out the former incumbent, a well qualified white female attorney doing a good job and demanded that the job go to an African American.