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Congressmen seek inquiry into limousine company used to ferry officials to Watergate hotel

RAW STORY
Published: Monday May 8, 2006

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'Not interested' in prostitution, but how contract was awarded

The ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee and the ranking Democratic member on the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness have called on the Homeland Security Inspector General to conduct an inquiry into the Department's arrangement with a limousine company that was used to ferry members of Congress and other officials to the Watergate Hotel, where poker parties and prostitutes were allegedly made available, RAW STORY has learned.

While the congressmen say they are "not interested" in accusations the company was complicit in prostitution deals, the last line of their letter requests "the dates, times of use, and the names of the officials" who made use of the vehicles.

The letter to Homeland Security Inspector Richard Skinner, from Congressmen Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), follows.

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May 8, 2006

The Honorable Richard Skinner

Inspector General

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C.

Dear Inspector General Skinner:

On April 29, 2006, the Washington Post reported that Shirlington Limousine and Transportation, Inc., a Washington area limousine service that had been linked to the on-going corruption scandal of former Rep. Randy Cunningham, had been awarded a $21 million contract for limousine services by the Department of Homeland Security.

While recent reports indicate that the current controversy involving Shirlington Limousine revolves around the company's alleged complicity in securing prostitution services for public officials, we are not interested in such accusations.

However, we are concerned about revelations that this company, despite its unsatisfactory past performance and its apparent lack of resources was able to obtain a $21 million contract with the Department. Therefore, we are writing to request that you investigate this company and its contracts with the Department and obtain the answers to the following questions:

1) Shirlington Limousine initially won a contract with the Department for $3.8 million in April 2004. This contract was awarded under the "historically underutilized business zone" (HUBZone) program. According to the Small Business Administration, to qualify under the HUBZone program, a business must meet all of the HUBZone criteria. It must be small, located in a HUBZone, be owned and controlled by one or more U.S. citizens, and at least 35% of its employees must reside in a HUBZone. We are concerned that Shirlington Limousine may not meet each of these criteria. An internet search did not reveal a physical address for Shirlington Limousine. We did, however, find a Post Office box number and a phone number. Unfortunately, a call to the listed phone number connected with a messaging service located in California. Unfortunately, that service was unable to provide information on the business' physical address. Therefore, please verify that this business meets each of the criteria for a HUBZone enterprise, and specifically whether its physical address at the time of the April 2004 award was within a HUBZone designated area.

2) Additionally, as to the April 2004 contract, it has been widely reported that Shirlington Limousine was the sole bidder. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether this contract was designed as a sole source award or whether this was a full and open competition of the type required under Federal procurement regulations. As you know, under Federal procurement regulations, a sole source award for a contract of this size is generally reserved for instances in which the source selected is the only source capable of providing the goods or services. A sole source contract for routine transportation and limousine services in an area replete with taxicab and limousine services companies, such as the Washington, DC metropolitan area, appears to be a misuse of the sole source designation. Therefore, please determine the rationale for awarding the April 2004 contract as a sole source award.

3) Public records indicate that between 2002 and 2005, the Shirlington Limousine Company had many financial difficulties and performance problems, including court actions for unpaid debts and a contract termination for poor performance. As you know, under Federal procurement regulations a vendor must be deemed a "responsible bidder" by the contracting authority. Given its history of financial and performance problems, please determine the steps taken and the conclusions reached by the Department's acquisitions office to determine that this company was a "responsible bidder."

4) Reports indicate that in October 2005, the Department awarded a $21 million contract to Shirlington Limousine for transportation services. Please provide information on:

a. Whether the Department currently has a motor pool which provides transportation services for its high ranking officials;

b. Whether the Department has leased vehicles for use in official government business, and if so, how many such vehicles are leased;

c. Which officials were given access to utilize the services under the Shirlington Limousine contract;

d. What protocol was established to differentiate the need to use the Limousine service rather than the motor pool or other leased vehicles;

e. Whether a log or other record was kept to determine which Department employees or officials used the Limousine service, and

f. If a log or other record was kept, provide the dates, times of use, and the names of the officials.

It is our understanding that the committee intends to hold a hearing on May 18th which will touch upon this contract. Therefore, we would appreciate a response to these questions prior to the May 18th hearing. As always, thank you for your efforts in ensuring that taxpayer money is efficiently and effectively spent. If you have any questions, please contact Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Democratic Staff Director, at (202) 226-2616.

Sincerely,

Bennie G. Thompson

Ranking Member

Committee on Homeland Security



Bill Pascrell

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology