business as usual in Washington, D.C.
Company that repaired Gray's house lacked license
Jeffrey Anderson THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The politically connected company that arranged for a home renovation
plan and supervised repairs this summer at D.C. Council Chairman
Vincent C. Gray's house lacked a business license to provide home
improvement services, according to records released Friday by the
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
The records also show that two of the companies hired to work on Mr.
Gray's house by WCS Construction, a company wholly owned by W.
Christopher Smith Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of mega-
developer William C. Smith & Co., are not licensed to do business in
Licensing issues and questions about whether building permits were
necessary have prompted the city's consumer affairs agency to "look
into what may or may not have been required" at Mr. Gray's home, a
"We are not ignoring it," DCRA spokesman Michael Rupert said Friday.
Mr. Gray, who has publicly stated that he is considering a run for
mayor and has been a vocal critic of the Fenty administration, has
bristled at suggestions that the $5,000 in incidental home repairs
performed in July and August were inappropriate. The council chairman
has said the repairs arose after he turned to Mr. Smith, his longtime
friend, to arrange for architectural plans, with an eye toward hiring
WCS Construction to do a more complete home renovation because he
trusted his friend's work.
Both Mr. Gray and the company have challenged suggestions that Mr.
Gray received special favors and sought to portray the transaction as
ordinary. A company spokeswoman said that acting as a contractor for
minor repairs was unusual but that the company has performed home
renovation services like the project Mr. Gray was preparing. She could
not provide an example.
But D.C. databases of licensed contractors and DCRA officials have no
records that would indicate that the construction company had a home
improvement contractor license or a home improvement salesman license
that, prior to Oct. 1, was required of companies that contract to
repair or remodel homes, according to the DCRA License Center.
WCS Construction on Oct. 1 obtained a general contractor's license, a
new category of license offered by the city that allows the company to
oversee myriad construction jobs, including home improvement projects.
WCS spokeswoman Carol Chatham did not return several calls for
Mr. Gray has said he also had exterior work performed on his property
two years ago, but has insisted that William C. Smith & Co. and WCS
Construction had nothing to do with it. DCRA records show that Mr.
Gray has never obtained a building permit for the Hillcrest home he
has owned since 1984.
Photographs posted on the Web site of a Hillcrest community group at
www.hillcrestdc .com show Mr. Gray's house in the background with a
different fence and garage door than can be seen now.
On Friday, DCRA officials said that installation of an iron fence
"typically requires a building permit" and that installation of a
garage door, if electrical, would require a permit as well.
Mr. Gray has declined to say who installed a 6-foot-high black iron
fence that lines the perimeter of his 12,000-square-foot corner lot.
He also has declined to say who installed his garage door.
The name of the home improvement contractor who performs work is
required on a building permit.
This summer, Mr. Gray said, he asked WCS Construction to install
wiring for exterior floodlights and an electrical outlet for a TV and
DCRA officials said installation of electrical connections also
requires a permit.
The agency, which issued $757,000 in fines for illegal construction
the past 12 months, has not decided "what, if any, enforcement" is
appropriate, said Mr. Rupert, who last week said that, in general,
illegal construction carries a $2,000 fine for the homeowner and a
possible loss of license for the contractor.
Invoices Mr. Gray made public last week that were posted online by the
Washington City Paper show that WCS Construction bundled its
subcontractors' invoices, including $5,000 for architectural plans,
and billed Mr. Gray for $10,051.44. The company received a supervision
fee of $924.42 and a "general contractor's fee and mark up @ 5
percent" of $478.62.
The invoices contain work receipts from D.H. Kim Enterprises and
Maryland Doors Frames and Locks, neither of which is licensed or
registered with DCRA as companies that do business in the District.
D.H. Kim shares a business address with WCS Construction on Stanton
Road in Southeast Washington.
Mr. Gray's ties to Chris Smith date to the mid-1990s. According to its
Web site, WCS Construction is the builder on a majority of the city
projects developed by William C. Smith & Co. or its subsidiaries,
including a 110,000-square-foot educational and arts complex in
Southeast Washington built by a nonprofit organization on whose board
Mr. Gray served in 2005 and 2006.
According to council documents, William C. Smith & Co. has about $300
million of real estate development east of the Anacostia River - an
area of the city that Mr. Gray has represented.
Mr. Gray has vigorously denied that an Oct. 7 Freedom of Information
Act request to the city by The Washington Times, and questions that a
reporter raised with employees of William C. Smith & Co., had anything
to do with his payment for the services and the timing.
Late last week, a neighbor of Mr. Gray's, Advisory Neighborhood
Commissioner Robin Hammond Marlin, said she can't fault Mr. Gray for
putting up an iron fence around his corner lot, because it is on a
busy street. But Ms. Marlin said that when she put up a far less
substantial chain-link fence in her backyard, she went to DCRA in
person and obtained the appropriate permits.
"I believe in doing things the old-fashioned way, by following
procedures," she said.