The Washington D.C. Water Board of Directors is set to nominate Roderic Woodson despite concerns that he will have a conflict of interest given his lobbyist past.
Particularly troubling to labor unions is the work Woodson has done lobbying against the District’s First Source laws. These laws aim to increase the number of District residents on publicly-financed construction jobs. A favorite lobbyist of D.C. Mayor Vince Gray, Woodson was originally set to be nominated last month before objections from Ward 6 councilman Tommy Wells delayed the nomination. Wells, union leaders and fellow councilwoman Mary Cheh all have concerns about Woodson’s previous work.
Ward 6 Councilman Saint Tommy Wells put the brakes on Woodson’s nomination, over potential conflict-of-interest concerns stemming from Woodson’s work on behalf of Skanska, a Swedish-based construction company that recently won a $330 million contract to build a giant sewage tunnel planned as part of a $2.6 billion river clean-up effort.
In response to Wells’ concerns, Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh has put off Woodson’s nomination for two weeks. Woodson says he only worked on behalf of Skanska for a single day, and he’s perfectly willing to recuse himself when any potential conflict of interests arise. He adds that he has a stellar record, relevant experience, and no other motivation but to “provide a public service.”
With so many people doubting Woodson’s integrity, the issue of D.C.’s image as an unethical and corrupt government is once again at the forefront of discussion. He is a favorite lobbyist of the mayor and nobody can deny it.
“I do not see how a partner at Holland & Knight isn’t business at usual,” Wells says. “He should not be setting rates for businesses.”
Union officials particularly take offense to Woodson’s lobbying on behalf of Miller & Long, a staunchly anti-union contractor.
Jos Williams, head of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, says Woodson has made “his stance against District workers abundantly clear.”
One labor official says part of the pitch against Woodson might include highlighting the works of Miller & Long’s Brett McMahon (son of the company’s chairman John McMahon). McMahon has been a frequent critic of the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama; he’s the spokesman for a website that referred to Obama as “Monsieur Presidente” and assails his record on the economy. McMahon also told attendees at a Conservative Political Action Conference that Miller & Long was “vehemently” against unions, boasted about putting the carpenters’ union out of business, and urged anti-union proponents to be creative when trying to undermine union influence.
The objections to his nomination have put Woodson in a position where he must preemptively defend his record, a sign that he is not the ideal candidate.
In a Friday e-mail sent to D.C. Council members and staff, Woodson acknowledged criticizing First Source but said his concerns have been rooted in policy analysis rather than in personal antipathy toward unions: “The true answer to tackling unemployment is to be found with a well-designed and thoughtfully implemented workforce development program,” he wrote. And the idea that his board service would be hampered by conflicts of interest, he wrote, “is an absurd argument attempting to mask an act of desperation.”
“With the exception of one tangential day of work for Skanska more than a year ago on a non-procurement issue, I have never represented any of these entities!!” he wrote, adding, “what does any of this have to do with the price of water in the District?”
The AFL-CIO and LIUNA have both written Councilman Tommy Wells asking him to again halt Woodson’s nomination. According to a union official, five members of the council are on board to oppose the nomination, leaving labor one vote short.