HUBZone is the acronym for “historically underutilized business zone,” and small businesses located in those areas are given preferences on government contracts. HUBZone businesses include American Indian tribes.
In an interview Tuesday, LaTourette said Neil Volz, a former top aide to Ney, approached his office in late July 2003 and asked him to write to the GSA regarding the Old Post Office facility. At the time, LaTourette was the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on economic development, public buildings and emergency management, which has jurisdiction over federal facilities like the Old Post Office building.
LaTourette said he agreed to the request because Volz was “an old friend,” and that after checking with staffers at the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he saw no problems with contacting Perry on the issue.
LaTourette added that he never personally met with Volz regarding the two letters he sent to the GSA in September 2002.
Volz left Ney’s staff and went to work for Abramoff at the firm Greenberg Traurig in February 2002. Ney’s subsequent involvement that year with Abramoff, including taking part in a Scotland golf junket in August 2002, was part of the plea deal that Abramoff struck with the Justice Department. Both Ney and Volz are referenced in the plea document, although neither is singled out by name.
Volz contacted LaTourette’s office on July 23, 2002, seeking a meeting with the Ohio Republican or his staffers regarding the Old Post Office building. Volz’s request is spelled out in an e-mail to one of the Ohio Republican’s aides. The e-mail was given to Roll Call by LaTourette for this story.
In the e-mail, Volz said he had tried to contact LaTourette’s personal office chief of staff but found that she was not available. Volz then e-mailed another aide “seeking advice” when his first message went unreturned.
“With her being out though, I wasn’t sure who to contact since we have a time sensitive issue I was hoping Congressman LaTourette could take a look at,” Volz wrote. “Do you have a few minutes sometime soon so that I could you a call to chat about a building/gsa issue? Or could you give me some advice on who I should contact to talk through.”
Volz was directed by LaTourette’s aide to speak to staffers on the subcommittee on economic development, public buildings and emergency management.
In August 2002, Safavian was part of a golf junket to Scotland that included Abramoff, Volz, Ney and others. The trip cost more than $150,000, according to The Washington Post.
In the Sept. 5, 2002, letter, LaTourette asked Perry to give preferential treatment for HUBZone business as the GSA evaluated proposals to develop the Old Post Office.
“As GSA proceeds with this important historic reuse project, I urge you to give consideration to providing additional opportunities for Hubzone businesses in the redevelopment process,” LaTourette wrote. “Specifically, I ask that you consider giving Hubzone businesses an advance opportunity to provide redevelopment proposals that could be given priority if they otherwise meet” federal requirements.
LaTourette and Young then sent the exact same letter to Perry again one week later.
The letters were provided to Roll Call as part of a Freedom of Information Act request to the GSA.