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Council Wants More Oversight For City-Leased Vehicles

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Several weeks after Kwame R. Brown was elected D.C. Council chairman in November, city officials were asked to order for him a "fully-loaded" Lincoln Navigator L.
Patrick Madden
Several weeks after Kwame R. Brown was elected D.C. Council chairman in November, city officials were asked to order for him a "fully-loaded" Lincoln Navigator L.

This week, Council Members Jack Evans and Sekou Biddle are expected to introduce a bill requiring council approval for any city-leased vehicle.

In particular, Evans says he wants to focus on the cars given to top government officials.

The Ward 2 council member says back in the mid-1990s, when a Control Board was established because the city's finances were a mess, it tackled the very same issue.

"It's just one of those things that just got going again and, frankly, I remember when the Control Board came in and they said, 'What is this?' And they had that ability to just eliminate it unilaterally," says Evan. "We don't have that [ability], but as these leases expire, they should not be renewed."

Meanwhile, another council member, Tommy Wells, has requested the Department of Public Works reveal how many vehicles are being used by officials around the city.

A preliminary report issued by Wells finds that council chair Kwame Brown "inappropriately requested" the pricey Lincoln Navigator that's been the focus of controversy in the Wilson Building.

Wells' investigation into the Department of Public Works' Fleet Management Administration uncovered a number of what he calls "troubling" signs but the biggest may be this: Nearly a decade ago, the D.C. Council passed a law banning city officials from leasing or purchasing SUVs and other gas guzzing vehicles.

It's against city law to lease or purchase a vehicle with gas mileage under 22 miles per gallon. Brown is hardly alone; there are at least 42 SUVs in use right now by officials, and at least 10 were ordered after the ban on SUVs went into effect in 2004.

Wells says it appears laws were broken and he plans to refer his findings to the attorney general and the inspector general.

"Well this is a process of self-correction. We are going to straighten this out, and the D.C. government can straighten this out," he says.

Brown, in a statement, says he commends Well's report and agrees that a top-to-bottom review of how the city procures vehicles is needed.

**Report on Council Member Wells' investigation:**
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