MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." As we continue our exploration of getting by and getting ahead, let's turn to our weekly segment that's all about the ins and outs of physically getting around the D.C. region, "From A to B."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
A few weeks back we told you about this former top-level executive at Metro, who left to become a lobbyist and was sending some possibly unethical e-mails. Now, WAMU transportation reporter, David Schultz, is back to give us an update on that story. Hi, David.
MR. DAVID SCHULTZ
Hey, Rebecca, glad to be here.
So, David, can you give us some quick background on this story again?
Yes, well, the central character in this story, the executive turned lobbyist you mentioned, is a guy by the name of Emeka Moneme. He used to be Metro's chief administrative officer. About a year ago, Moneme left Metro and joined this lobbying/consulting firm called The Carmen Group.
Then late last year, the company MV Transportation hired the Carmen Group to do some consulting work. Now, this is significant because MV Transportation is one of Metro's biggest contractors. They operate the Metro Access Transit Service and, perhaps not coincidentally, their contract with Metro was about to come up for a two-year extension worth more than $200 million.
So basically, MV Transportation is trying to get its contract extended, right?
Okay. And then they hired this lobbying firm, which itself, hired Moneme, who had just recently left Metro?
Okay. So what exactly was he doing for MV?
Well, this is where the plot thickens. So WAMU obtained a private email that Moneme's office sent to one of the advisors to Metro's board of directors. In the email, he tries to set up a meeting with the advisor to discuss MV transport and the Metro Access program. Yes. So Metro has a pretty firm in place that prevents executives from working on Metro-related business for at least a year after they leave.
And what does Moneme have to say about this?
Well, both he and his bosses at the Carmen Group wouldn't comment and a spokesperson at MV Transportation says they hired Moneme to do community outreach, not to lobby his former co-workers.
Okay. So what's happened since we last talked about this on the show?
Well, it's important to know how we actually obtained a copy of the email Moneme sent. The person he sent it to, the advisor to Metro's board of directors, he's the one who sent it to us because he also felt it was inappropriate.
By the way, that advisor requested anonymity so we won't be mentioning his name here. But here's the thing, the guy who sent us the email was just one advisor. There are actually 17 people who sit on Metro's advisory committee. And we wanted to find out if Moneme tried to make contact with any of the other advisors so we called them up.
And what'd they say?
Well, the ones we spoke to all said they hadn't received emails or phone calls or anything from Moneme or from anyone else at the Carmen Group. But almost half of the people on this advisory committee didn't respond to us at all. So we decided to request copies of any emails between the advisors and Carmen Group using the Freedom of Information Act.
Okay. So, tell us, what'd you find?
Well, as it turns out, Moneme did more than we initially thought. Our request turned up a second email he sent to Todd Wigglesworth (sp?) , a planner in the Fairfax County Department of Transportation who's also an advisor to Virginia's Metro board members.
This second email is pretty much identical to the first. Moneme requests a meeting to talk about MV and the Metro Access program. Interestingly, though, Wigglesworth was one of the people who did respond to our initial phone calls and back then he said he hadn't received any emails from Moneme.
So he was lying to you?
Well, I don't know. I mean, to be fair, Todd, like both you and me, receives a ton of email every day. And when I called him back after we received a copy of the second email, he said he just forgotten about it the first time I called.
Fair enough. But what I want to know is, then did he agree to meet with Moneme?
Well, according to Wigglesworth, absolutely not. He says he never responded to the email, he never agreed to any meetings and he really didn't give it a second thought, which might explain why he forgot about it.
So it sounds then like both of the advisors you talked to, they did the right thing here and they did not respond to Moneme.
Yes. And in fact, Metro has not launched a formal investigation into this for that very reason. Metro's general manager Richard Sarles says the contracting process here hasn't been compromised because there's no evidence any advisors met with any lobbyists.
Well, speaking of the contracting process, what's going with that, that $200 million extension? Did MV get it?
Yes, as a matter of fact, they did. Last week, the Metro board formally approved MV's two-year extension and they did so without any discussion on a unanimous vote.
All right. Well, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for coming in and giving us this update, David.
David Schultz is the transportation reporter here at WAMU. To see a copy of that email in question, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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