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D.C. Council probes license in contracts scandal

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Local,Bill Myers
The D.C. Council's investigation into contracts handed out to friends and fraternity brothers of Mayor Adrian Fenty has expanded to include questions of how a key figure in the growing scandal obtained an engineer's license despite having failed the test several times, The Washington Examiner has learned. Veteran lawyer Robert Trout, who is leading the council's investigation, briefed members Monday morning. He told them he wants to know how Abdullahi Barrow obtained his license just months before his company was made a subcontractor in several parks and recreation contracts, multiple sources told The Examiner. The Examiner reported last week that Barrow failed the engineer's exam several times, but the Fenty-appointed Board of Professional Engineers voted to give him a license in 2008 because of his "eminence" in the field. Barrow's license made it possible for Liberty Engineering, a company he co-founded with Fenty friend and fraternity brother Sinclair Skinner to obtain the contracts. Liberty was a subcontractor to a company called Banneker Ventures, which is run by yet another Fenty friend and fraternity brother, Omar Karim. Trout told council members Monday that his investigation is like "peeling an onion," and his report won't be finished until late September at the earliest -- after this year's Democratic primaries, the sources said. Lawyer A. Scott Bolden, who is representing Liberty's and Banneker's executives, said Trout's investigation "is spiraling." Trout, Bolden said, "is quickly becoming the Ken Starr of the Banneker investigation. Quote me." Starr was the special counsel who investigated then-President Bill Clinton. The D.C. Council will meet Tuesday and take up a resolution that would allow the special investigative committee to meet over the summer recess. The council's investigation has been complicated by a settlement signed by D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles and Banneker after the council voted to cancel the company's parks contracts. Nickles said the settlement won't interfere with Trout's investigation. "This is an open book. I'm not going to hide anything," Nickles said Monday. Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-At Large, who has urged the city finance office not to cut any checks for the settlement, disagreed. "Clearly, it's an attempt to hush up the situation," Mendelson said. Freeman Klopott contributed to this report.

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