Odd deal sends D.C. fire truck, ambulance to Dominican town

Local,Michael Neibauer

The D.C. government has agreed to donate a fire truck and ambulance worth nearly $350,000 to a Dominican beach town, using a District nonprofit as middleman and an emergency rule quietly established last week, the Examiner has learned.

The fire truck, valued at $270,000, and the ambulance, valued at $70,000, will be turned over to the anti-youth violence organization Peaceoholics, who will then turn the vehicles over to Sosúa, a small beach resort town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.

“Even though it’s $340,000, we see the city getting a lot back from it,” said Peaceoholics co-founder Ron Moten. “And it’s just a good deed. We believe if you can help anybody, God blesses you 10 times over.”

But the donation has struck numerous city officials as unusual, if not unprecedented. According to the Office of Contracting and Procurement’s Web site, all surplus government supplies are subject to auction, so the District can recoup some of its costs.

“I’m sure that Sosúa and many other cities around the globe are deserving and in need,” said Ward 3 D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who has oversight of OCP. “I’m also pleased with the good work of the Peaceoholics. But I don’t think we should forsake the opportunity in these harsh economic times to get hundreds of thousands of dollars for needy District residents.”

The Peaceoholics approached the D.C. government about the donation through an assistant fire chief, Moten said Wednesday. Moten said “some friends of mine” are regular visitors to Sosúa — some had taken trips there with at-risk youth — and had struck up a relationship with Sosúa Mayor Vladimir Céspedes. The town, Moten said, is in “great financial distress.”

Céspedes could not be reached despite numerous attempts this week.

The Examiner tried to contact Moten on Thursday with numerous follow up questions, including who will pay to ship the vehicles to the island, but he would no longer return phone calls. He was seen meeting late Thursday with D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles.

“I have no idea,” Nickles told The Examiner, when asked why the donation was going through Moten’s organization. “I’m just starting to get involved in this.”

Until last week, there were no regulations to govern the handout of surplus property of this magnitude. The contracting office created a new rule, published in the D.C. Register, which said simply “the Chief Procurement Officer or his designee may donate surplus supplies to Peaceaholics, Inc., a nonprofit organization.”

“I just have more questions than I have answers,” said District watchdog Dorothy Brizill of D.C. Watch. “If you look up this town online it’s described as the Acapulco of the Dominican Republic. It’s not a poor town.”

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