Ex-USAID Vet Sues Haiti Contractor for Back Pay

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January 5, 2011; Source: Democracy Now! | This story isn't specifically a nonprofit story, but readers might see the nonprofit implications. Someone named Lewis Lucke has sued a foreign aid contractor named the Haiti Recovery Group for $492,000. What was the money for? Lucke charges that HRG shortchanged him for consulting services he provided "that included hooking the contractor up with powerful people and helping to navigate government bureaucracy," presumably the Haitian government and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Nothing surprising in this, except for who Lucke is. After the Haitian earthquake in January 2010, Lucke served as the U.S. special coordinator for relief and reconstruction, the last of his positions in his 27-year career at USAID. Less than two months after leaving his USAID job in Haiti, Lucke signed a consulting contract with HRG that would pay him $30,000 a month plus additional amounts if HRG hit specific performance goals.

Lucke claims he got two monthly payments, but then HRG terminated the contract, just around the time that it won a $10 million Haitian government contract for debris removal. Lucke says that he "played an integral role" in getting three contracts for HRG in addition to the Haitian government deal – a second $10 million contract with the World Bank and an additional $366,000 with CHF International, the latter a 501(c)(3).

In a nation like Haiti which has been riddled with corruption, as many groups have said is a major development aid problem in Haiti, it seems a little seamy for USAID's chief guy overseeing aid in Haiti to transform himself into a consultant working the system with inside contacts for clients. For nonprofits attempting to get AID contracts, they are unlikely to be able to pay $30,000 a month retainers and incentive packages of a half million dollars for former senior USAID staff to work the system for them. This is true especially for someone like Lucke who ran the game while he was still at USAID and claimed credentials of having worked with the charitable efforts on behalf of USAID of former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Wasn't the revolving door of senior officials leaving government to become lobbyists and consultants with their old agencies supposed to have closed?—Rick Cohen