Hall, who would not comment on personnel matters, said the agency failed on a number of fronts, such as ensuring from the start that Peaceoholics could spend the public’s money wisely and was immune to pressure and politics.
“They were probably getting lots of calls,” Hall said. “It was definitely feasting time for Peaceoholics during the Fenty administration.”
The Post studied dozens of deeds, mortgages, loan documents, government e-mails and budgets, and interviewed the founders of Peaceoholics and others with direct knowledge of the deal.
It started in March 2008 when Peaceoholics proposed buying four apartment complexes in Southeast and Northeast Washington to create independent housing for young men.
The nonprofit group was among the most connected in the city: It was run by Moten and Jauhar Abraham, who had risen from criminal backgrounds to become gang reformers and mediators in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Moten had grown up alongside Fenty in Northwest, where Moten was a drug dealer when he was young.
When Anthony A. Williams (D) was mayor, Peaceoholics struggled to gain city funding. After Fenty became mayor in 2007 on a platform of education reform, however, millions in city funding poured in for the group, which employed 80-plus workers and consultants at its peak.
Fenty did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
Peaceoholics had never tried anything as ambitious as building and operating independent housing, which would involve millions in construction money from the housing agency and hundreds of thousands in operating funds and support services from two other city agencies.
In August 2008, the housing agency awarded Peaceoholics a $600,000 loan for pre-development and other so-called “soft costs.”
In e-mails, council member Graham has repeatedly asked the city for invoices, receipts and other documents to justify Peaceoholics’ spending. To date, few records have been produced.
Abraham, co-founder of Peaceoholics, said receipts were submitted to the housing agency but he does “not know where that stuff is now.”
He added: “Nothing was done with the intent . . . to defraud the government.”
The housing agency provided to The Post a summary that showed Peaceoholics spent money on legal fees, environmental work and development consultants, but the records contain few details. Housing officials said they are searching for more documents.
One of the documents provided by the city shows that Hagler first entered the deal in 2008 to do a marketing and zoning analysis for Peaceoholics. Although Hagler is a contractor, Abraham said Hagler appeared qualified to do the in-depth report. Hagler submitted two invoices totaling more than $200,000 for the work.
Abraham said he had known Hagler for the better part of two decades. Abraham had worked as a boxing promoter earlier in his life and said that he met the Hagler family through those connections.
“Eventually, we developed a relationship,” Abraham said. “We have families. We have a lot of associations, a lot of people who know each other.”
Abraham said he was unaware of Hagler’s past. Just two years before he was hired by Peaceoholics, for example, Hagler agreed to settle a civil lawsuit in Prince George’s County by paying more than $400,000 to a couple who had hired him to rebuild their home after a fire. According to the complaint, county inspectors found Hagler had not obtained a valid construction permit, and they ordered the work stopped; a private inspector later found the renovations to be substandard.
Abraham said that he would have hired Hagler anyway and that Hagler did good work. Abraham said Hagler followed through on a promise to hire Peaceoholics’ clients for some of the renovations. “All of us had to be given a chance by somebody,” Abraham said about Hagler. “That stuff didn’t matter to me.”
The housing agency did not question the hiring of Hagler, Abraham said.
Hall, the agency’s current director, criticized the hands-off nature of city housing managers. He said competitive bidding was not required at the time, but it should have been.
The housing agency director at the time was Fenty appointee Leila Finucane Edmonds, who referred questions to the housing agency. Chris Earley, chief program officer, said staff at the housing agency was told by Edmonds to push the project along. Earley said he was dismissed by Hall late last week.
“This was top down — get the deal done,” Earley said just hours after he learned he would be terminated. “The agency received a mandate to make sure the project moved forward, from the mayor, city administrator, on down through the director. When you receive a directive from your [boss] and you don’t do it, what happens? You get fired.”
D.C. puts in more money