MARYLAND (DC News Now) — FBI Director Christopher Wray told his staff in a letter Thursday that he had “concerns about fairness and transparency” in how Prince George’s County was chosen as the future home of the bureau. Maryland officials contended that the federal government’s decision was legitimate.
In a letter obtained by DC News Now, the leader of the nation’s top law enforcement agency cited conflicts of interest in the final decision for the General Services Administration (GSA). He claimed that a political appointee with connections to the Greenbelt site “diverged from the panel’s conclusions and selected” the land owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
“And I want to be clear with you all, in the same way we have been clear with GSA, that our concerns are not with the decision itself but with the process,” Wray wrote. “We identified about a potential conflict of interest involving the site selection authority and whether changes that individual made in the final stage of the process adhered to the site selection criteria.”
The letter said that a three-person panel that was comprised of two GSA officials and one FBI official unanimously chose Springfield, Va., as the future site according to criteria in the selection process. It continued to state that the “senior executive” with the GSA who once worked for the WMATA rejected the three-person panel’s recommendations, which “is exceedingly rare.”
Wray said that since Congress “initiated the site selection process,” that body “will control the next steps.” Congress has to approve of the project and fund it before it is finalized.
This was supposed to be a celebration for Maryland officials, who on Wednesday evening were touting the GSA’s decision as groundbreaking for Prince George’s County over Virginia’s site because those officials have claimed would save taxpayers millions and construction ready.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said at a news conference that picking the Greenbelt site was the right choice.
“This decision was the right decision. It was always going to be the right decision that our sites were objectively the strongest sites and the GSA decided that,” she said. “And we are so satisfied that this is transformational. This is an economic, a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for Prince George’s County that will quite literally change Prince George’s County economy.”
Alsobrooks said she did not receive a call from President Joe Biden, who had said earlier this year that “equity” needed to be considered in choosing the FBI site. She said she got a call from U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about the GSA choice.
When pressed by reporters about how Congress would react to Wray’s contentions, Alsobrooks said that the Maryland delegation led by Democratic Gov. Wes Moore “will continue to work to make sure that the funding is made available for this to happen.”
“Director Wray said that they needed a new building, that they can no longer operate out of the dilapidated building that they have in Washington D.C.,” she said. “So I would think his concern should be making sure that as soon as possible, the men and women of the FBI are able to have a facility that befits their dignity and helps to support their work and their mission.”
Virginia officials including Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine called for a reversal in the decision.