House Hires Former Lawmaker to Study Restaurant Operations
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A House committee has given former Rep. Larry J. Smith, D-Fla., a two- month, $18,624 contract to compare House restaurant catering operations with those in private industry.
Smith was hired Jan. 26, Heidi Pender, special counsel for the Committee on House Administration, said Thursday. The contract was signed by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Charlie Rose, D-N.C., and its senior Republican, William Thomas of California.
After a story on the hiring appeared Thursday in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Thomas sent Republicans a memo saying the contract was ″not wise″ because such contracts should be handled ″in a non-political atmosphere″ by the House’s new administrator for non-legislative matters.
″Not to have signed this contract would have invited the Democrats’ refusal to sign contracts of qualified minority consultants, to the obvious detriment of Republicans,″ Thomas said, explaining why he approved it.
″I don’t think that necessarily to be true,″ Pender countered. She said the Smith contract and four others - including three Republican consulting contracts - were approved by the same margin in a committee poll. She refused to reveal the results of the poll.
Also among the five consultants working for the committee is a former Republican House member, John Napier of South Carolina. Though a former GOP member, Napier was hired by the Democrats for $5,000, to assist Rose on a number of committee matters during a three-month period.
House committees hire consultants routinely. Ironically, the Smith contract came to light on the day Congress approved a freeze on members’ pay at $133,600. Leaders trumpeted Congress’ willingness to do its part to sacrifice at a time the Clinton administration is proposing deep spending cuts.
The Smith contract began Jan. 26 and runs through March 31. The former lawmaker could not be reached for comment at his Ft. Lauderdale law office.
Smith served in the House from 1983 through last year when he retired. He wrote 161 bad checks at the House bank. Smith also has been reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court for allowing his name to remain associated with a law firm after leaving it.
He also is under criminal investigation for his role in using his former law firm to convert $10,000 in campaign funds into money for his own use - including $4,000 that went to pay a gambling debt.
Smith’s contract calls for him to conduct a ″survey and review of the food industry for the purpose of comparing the House restaurant catering operations with the industry.″
Pender said, ″He is surveying operations with an eye to comparing them to the real world to see whether we are deficient in any way, shape or form.″
The House took control of its own restaurant system in 1991, after members had stiffed a former food contractor for thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
Pender said Smith was an expert in the restaurant business.
″At age eight, he began working in his grandfather’s catering business. At 13, he was running snack bars for his father. He also was a waiter during college and law school. He was a bartender, supervisor, manager and catering manager in his father’s business,″ Pender said, reading from Smith’s resume.
″He leased snack bar and catering facilities at a large hotel in North Miami Beach and ran them 2 1/2 years, and ran a vending route at the same time. He served as a consultant to other restaurant owners.
″He was very important and instrumental in helping the committee negotiate″ the end of the House contract with Service America Corp., the former food contractor, Pender said.
Smith also has recently become a consultant to the Cuban American Foundation, a conservative group which seeks to toughen U.S. policy toward Fidel Castro.