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The District may be experiencing what finance officials call “spending pressures.” But over at the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), it’s more like a spending spreeincluding a swanky new bathroom, decorative Italian eagles, and sweet contract deals.
“[Chief Charles] Ramsey’s been of the opinion he has an open checkbook,” says one high-level MPD source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Just one month into the 2001 fiscal year, and just two weeks after Congress officially approved the city’s budget, the MPD is already on a pace to rack up a huge deficit for the year. The projected damage hovers at somewhere between $15 million and $29 million, depending on whom you ask. Last week, when LL started making calls, Wayne Upshaw, deputy chief financial officer for budget and planning, said the figure was $15 million; Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer said it was closer to $20 million; and several command-level personnel said the in-house number being tossed around was $29 million. Following LL’s inquiries, District officials got their act together and started reading from the same page, circulating to all the city’s media a figure of $14.5 million.
“How can anybody be that far back and the fiscal year just started?” Ramsey asked when LL queried him on the matter. Good question, Chief. Wouldn’t it be your job to know the answer?
Yet even as his budget is running out of control, Ramsey and his Ram Team of Chicago imports are having fun with other folks’ money. The chief approved spending $200,000 to import special eagles from Italy to decorate flagpoles that are expected to stand outside police headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave. NW, according to MPD sources. The fifth floor at police headquarters is being renovated, and Gainer is expected to get a $10,000 full bathroom.
“I don’t know how much it’s going to cost, really,” says Gainer. “I work 10 to 12 hours a day, and I sweat. I am also a jogger. Right now, I borrow someone else’s shower. So while they were doing the work, I asked them to put a shower in for me.”
All hard-working employees who believe they deserve personal bathrooms, line up now outside Ramsey’s office. Don’t be shy. Ramsey, Gainer, and the Ram Team are not a selfish lot. There is enough to go around. Consider their treatment of Frank Tracy and Neil Trugman.
Tracy, former chair of the Fraternal Order of Police in the District, was voted out of that office. He then retired in October from the MPD, only to return as one of those fancy consultants of whom the city, especially the MPD, seem to be so enamored. Sgt. Joe Gentile, the department’s spokesperson, could not provide any information about Tracy’s salary as a consultant. Speaking through Gentile, Tracy refused to be interviewed.
Trugman, a former gang-intelligence detective, resigned July 10 but was back a few days later as a $69,000 consultant with the fancy title of “law enforcement intelligence coordinator.” Titles mean a lot to Trugman, MPD sources say. Gainer gushes when he talks of Trugman, arguing that the guy was leaving the MPD for the FBI when Gainer and Ramsey offered him a sweet deal he couldn’t refuse. “We’re lucky to have him,” says Gainer.
We’re lucky to have his wife, too. Kristin Trugman, a former Washington Times police and courts reporter, works for Gainer as his $70,000-per-year executive assistant, coordinating special programs and writing grant proposals. “She’s an excellent writer,” Gainer says, adding that she plans awards programs and researches and writes general orders. (Neither Trugman could be reached for comment; both are on vacation, sources say.)
LL thinks Gainer may be primed for a second career as a marriage counseloror an author. Suggested title for his first book: Keepin’ It Together.
To run through the MPD’s bank book is to glimpse spectacular planning and budgeting ineptitude. Already, finance officials say, the department is spending at a pace to exceed its overtime budget by at least $4 million. It may not be able to meet the matching requirement for a $15 million federal grant and is seeking a waiver. It is having trouble meeting the $100,000 annual payment for leasing its helicopter. MPD planners failed to budget for technology maintenance, which is expected to cost $600,000. Ramsey is scurrying around trying to find money for all those promotions he made and raises he promised. This is in addition to the $1 million in cost overruns for the fleet-maintenance contract with Serco, a private company. And who knows what the tab will be for the gasoline cards Ramsey and Gainer issued to officers without limiting how and when they could be used?
Anyone else with that kind of red ink on his hands would be taken to the woodshed or publicly flogged. But no one complains about the Chicago émigré: The council cowers on the seventh floor of One Judiciary Square before the chief’s legendary quick-draw spins. And no word of wrath is heard from the fiscal-guru-turned-mayor, Anthony A. Williams.
Ramsey and finance officials say not to worry; they’ll find the money somewhere. Warning to other agency directors: Hold on to your wallets! Willie Sutton’s cousins are on the loose. (For those not up on their historical figures, Sutton was the boy who robbed banks. When he was asked why, he calmly and brilliantly replied, “‘Cause that’s where the money is.”)
“There is some flexibility and opportunity,” counters Upshaw, a true Sutton protégé. “We can offset costs with reductions in other areas.”
The Ram Man is untouchable, although he and his team have been mismanaging the department since descending on the District slightly more than two years ago, spending funds on slick media campaigns and questionable contracts.
To hear Ramsey explain the burgeoning police budget deficit is to take a remarkable ridethe man never met a question (and maybe a questioner) he couldn’t slay. His first reaction is bafflement; he can’t figure out how anybody can project a deficit so early in the game. Then he talks about last fiscal year, when the MPD stood toe to toe with those dangerous protesters and activists outside the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetingsan operation that sank the department’s overtime budget. But that was last year. Ramsey notes that with all the hullabaloo surrounding this year’s presidential election, there has been some talk that there might be protests at the inauguration. Who knows what that will do to the overtime budget?
“I’m doing what I can not to use overtime,” Ramsey says.
LL is feeling a little dizzy right about now. Ramsey, who has called in from his Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago, is going full throttle. Help!
Ramsey says Trugman is “the best guy” for the job the department needs done. And Tracy was brought back to work on old homicide cold-case files; he was only one of seven former MPD employees Ramsey brought back. They went through 1,700 folders, says Ramsey; 19 needed to be looked at closely and sent to the field. Ten have already come back, involving perpetrators who are either dead or in jail.
Ramsey explains that he needed to hire back the contractor detectives to go through the cold cases because he didn’t have enough staff detectives to use as cleanup men. Of course, if those staff detectives could manage to improve their dismal 35 percent homicide closure rate, the department might not need so many cleanup men.
And just how does Ramsey intend to pay for all the promotions and raises he has so generously handed out? Well, once upon a time the department used what Ramsey calls “lapse funds”unspent money lying around because a particular position hasn’t been filled. But this year, Ramsey knew that Williams wanted to hire the full complement of 3,600 officers as called for in the MPD budget. Hiring as the mayor had directed meant Ramsey didn’t have lapse funds, but he failed to request additional money to cover the promotions and raises he had promised.
“We have to attritor get additional funding,” Ramsey says. (Translation: “I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do about that.”) But don’t worry about that private bathroom for Gainer, the chief adds. It’s not coming from the operating account; “it’s capital money.”
Look at this entire projected deficit thing this way, says Ramsey: “It’s equivalent to writing a check and being overdrawn and going to your savings account. What’s the problem? It’s still your money.”
That’s right. It’s our money. And Ramsey can’t spend it fast enough.
NEW LOWS IN DIME-DROPPING
An anonymous caller earlier this month to the city’s Child and Family Services Administration made a shocking allegation against Gainer, accusing him of masturbating in front of children and having those same children masturbate in front of him at his home.
Yeah, right. Maybe someone thought Gainer was some kind of Joycelyn Elders acolyte.
But of course, he’s not. Upon receiving the allegation, city officials immediately launched an investigation. On Wednesday evening, following inquiries from LL, Margret Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety, announced that the charges against Gainer had been determined to be unsubstantiated.
But not before Gainer had to endure two weeks of excruciating scrutiny.
“I was in the middle of contract negotiations, and these people from [the MPD’s] Youth Preventive Services came in and said they had report of this anonymous call. [The Internal Affairs Division] also was called in,” recalled Gainer in an interview last week. “I asked, ‘What do we do next?’ They had to investigate. I told them to go to Ramsey and keep me out of [the supervision of the investigation].”
Gainer roundly denied the allegations and said he was plainly shocked by them. “You could have knocked me for a loop,” he said.
Gainer has drawn ample fire since his arrival from Chicago to serve as Ramsey’s second in command; word around the city and inside the MPD is that he, rather than Ramsey, really runs the department. “Ramsey is just the mouthpiece,” says one command-level officer.
Whatever his job, this much is clear: Gainer has pissed off a bunch of people inside and outside the department. Last year, residents from Ward 7 wrote Ramsey requesting that he not send Gainer to any more of their community meetings; they accused him of “having difficulty relating to African-Americans.” He also was accused of having made a racist statement to a federal law enforcement colleague. That accusation was made by police watchdog Carl Rowan Jr., who said he had spoken to the person to whom Gainer allegedly made the racist remark. The inspector general was asked to investigate but could not substantiate the allegation.
This latest attack sounded outrageous. But the Child and Family Services Administration and the MPD are required by law to investigate any and all allegations. Technically, Gainer should have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, and some in the MPD were unhappy with the special treatment. “Anybody else would be at home,” said one command-level officer.
“This is different,” Ramsey countered in the interview last week. “You don’t have somebody saying, ‘I’m the victim.’ Anybody can just drop a dime; you don’t suspend people on that.”
Besides, Ramsey thinks he’s the real target of the attacks on Gainer. “If they want to attack me, attack me. But don’t go messing with somebody’s family,” Ramsey said.
Gainer, who has six childrenthe youngest is 15and several grandchildrenthe youngest is 1 month oldsaid that on Nov. 16, the day after he was notified of the anonymous call, representatives from the police youth division came to speak with his youngest son. His wife and daughter were away visiting colleges. “They needed to talk with other members of my family,” Gainer said. “I had to call my daughter-in-law and let her know that someone said I have been molesting my children and my grandchildren.
“I went through the allegations with my wife and my daughter when they came home,” Gainer continued. “On Wednesday, [Nov. 22,] I was visited at my home by two social workers.” As required by law, those visits were unannounced and were part of the Child and Family Services Administration investigation, which had to be concluded within 30 days of the complaint.
“Eight people have made three visits to my house for about 10 hours total. This is a tough situation to be in, I’ll tell you that,” Gainer said. “I have asked for my own criminal investigation” of the anonymous caller. “It should be a crime for someone to do this.”
Asked whether the call might change his style or cause him to mend a few fences, Gainer wouldn’t back down. “I can’t do the job half-ass to make people [who are] unhappy with the changes I’m trying to make like me.”
LL can hear more dimes dropping. Jonetta Rose Barras
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