The District of Columbia auditor this week turned to D.C. Superior Court to seek enforcement of a subpoena against the city, which is blocking unrestricted access to documents relating to real estate development projects managed by the now-dissolved National Capital Revitalization Corp. and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp.
Auditor Deborah Nichols, represented by Schertler & Onorato’s Robert Spagnoletti, filed court papers Tuesday asking a Superior Court judge to give “unqualified access” to all NCRC and AWC documents.
The D.C. Council established the NCRC in 1998 to retain and expand business in the city. In 2004, the AWC was created to develop the Anacostia waterfront. Both boards dissolved in 2007. Many of the records Nichols wants to review involve closed deals. This is the first time Nichols has turned to the courts to enforce a subpoena against the city.
On May 28, Nichols sent a subpoena to D.C. Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos seeking access to boxes of documents related to the two boards. The next day, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles sent his own letter to Nichols, saying he objected to the subpoena as “so broadly stated” as to be unenforceable.
Spagnoletti, a former D.C. attorney general, said in court papers that restrictions imposed by District officials “taint the audit process.”
According to Spagnoletti, Nichols, among other things, is prohibited from scanning or copying any document until it is reviewed by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office to determine whether a privilege—deliberative process or attorney-client—applies. Spagnoletti said in the court papers that no privilege applies to any of the documents requested.
“On its face, there are no statutory limitations on the Auditor’s ability to access any material in the possession of the District of Columbia necessary to complete its work,” Spagnoletti said in court papers.
The court action against the city comes as the D.C. Attorney General’s Office is taking heat in an unrelated federal suit in which city lawyers admit critical records are missing. A federal district judge in Washington recently blasted the District for its mishandling of documents in the litigation over the mass arrest of demonstrators in Pershing Park in 2002.