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Workers at troubled D.C. General Hospital seem to be succumbing to an odd outbreak of amnesia—they’ve forgotten who they are. And they also seem to be forgetting that their friends and relatives—who occupy high posts in the D.C. government—might have helped them land their jobs. LL has encountered two cases of employee forgetfulness at the public hospital within the past 11 months. Granted, it’s not exactly a scientific sample, but we feel the problem is serious enough to call in a team from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the phenomenon.
The latest case surfaced this week when LL contacted Lawrence Broughton, who works in the office of hospital Director John Fairman, to confirm that he is the nephew of City Administrator Michael Rogers and has been employed there since January. Broughton, who is in charge of “logistical restructuring’’ and computer information management for the director, at first denied he was Rogers’ relative. But when pressed about his kinship to the city administrator, Broughton balked.
“This is just weird,’’ he complained, saying he would have to consult with Patrice Dickerson, Fairman’s chief of staff and Broughton’s boss, before he could say for sure whether he was related to Rogers. LL thought of suggesting a blood test but decided that might be over the line.
While LL was waiting for Broughton to sort out his family lineage, Rogers called to confirm that, yes, Broughton is his nephew. “He’s scared to death [of reporters],’’ said Rogers, explaining his nephew’s response, which brought to mind the Apostle Peter’s denial of his buddy, Jesus Christ.
Perhaps Broughton’s skittishness is not without foundation. Last fall, the hospital’s rumor mill was forecasting that “Michael Rogers’ nephew” was coming to work at the hospital and that, in return, the hospital’s embattled marketing director, Ann Jackson, would be reassigned to work in Rogers’ office.
The city administrator said his nephew got the job the old-fashioned way: He boasted high computer literacy and an 11-year Army career in logistics management. Blood ties to the city’s day-to-day manager of government were irrelevant, Rogers said.
“My nephew, when he got out of the Army, was looking for a job, and I introduced him to a number of people around town. He happened to have the specific skills that Mr. Fairman was looking for,’’ Rogers said this week. “Do I think that I got my nephew a job? Not really. It was [Fairman’s] decision.’’
But Rogers will have as much success selling that line to disgruntled and RIFed D.C. General employees as Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. will in convincing Congress he really wants the D.C. financial control board to succeed. Axed hospital workers, obviously not steeped in D.C.’s unique brand of personnel management, can’t figure out how the financially strapped hospital can be hiring a top government official’s relative at the same time it’s laying off nurses, doctors, and trained medical personnel.
The Broughton matter seems linked to the case of Jackson, the hospital’s controversial director of marketing and planning. Last July, Jackson’s durable hold on a D.C. paycheck drew the ire of embittered former hospital employees who lost their jobs in the hospital’s downsizing.
The employees watched from the unemployment line in disbelief as Jackson stayed in her job despite a D.C. Inspector General investigation confirming that she had illegally collected sick leave in 1994 while working at another hospital. The IG also found that Jackson had produced a promotional brochure for D.C. General containing photos of other hospitals without obtaining permission or stating in the brochure that the photos were not of D.C. General.
The IG reportedly recommended that Jackson be fired for her transgressions. But the D.C. bureaucracy has its own system of consequences and Jackson was promptly promoted to a post on the D.C. Commission on Mental Health, which put her safely out of the line of fire. When LL finally located her there, Jackson claimed, “I’m not that Ann Jackson.’’ D.C. General sources confirmed that she was indeed that Ann Jackson, paid by the hospital and detailed to the commission to work as a statistician, even though her college degree is in English.
“They were tucking her here, tucking her there,’’ former D.C. General chief investigator George Crider said in an interview in late July 1995, when LL first reported on the strange case of “Queen Ann’’ Jackson (See Loose Lips, 8/4/95). “There was so much outcry over why they were keeping her and why she got promoted. But she was untouchable, so to speak.’’
Jackson’s immunity to RIFs and demotions may stem from her close ties to powerful D.C. figures, including former Ward 7 Councilmember H.R. Crawford, a longtime Barry ally. She’s also tight with Fairman, who approved her extended sick leave in 1994 while she was working at Chartered Health Plan hospital in the District. And D.C. General has long been known as a dumping ground for unemployed friends and relatives of city politicians.
But what intrigues LL about these two cases is the purported link between Broughton’s hiring and Jackson’s current assignment. While still on the hospital payroll, Jackson has been detailed for the past several months to, you guessed it, the city administrator’s office. She’s busy working on Rogers’ governmentwide “procurement re-engineering task force.’’ Jackson is one of 12 D.C. government employees assigned to the task force.
Which raises the question: Why would Rogers hire Jackson, with her blemished work record, to work on his task force? Was he looking for someone who could generate false, unattributed information, as Jackson did on the D.C. General brochure?
“Those are still just allegations,’’ said Rogers this week. The IG report, first disclosed in a Feb. 7, 1995, broadcast by WJLA-TV (Channel 7)’s “I-Team,’’ has never been released. And Crider was RIFed in May 1995, bringing his investigation of Jackson to a screeching halt.
Rogers said Jackson was recommended by Fairman to serve on the procurement task force. “She’s still an employee in good standing, and we wanted people who had a reputation for getting things done,’’ he said.
And Rogers disavows any link between his nephew’s hiring and Jackson’s assignment on the task force. “The two are absolutely unrelated,’’ Rogers said. “I give you my word on that.’’
If the day ever comes when the relatives of politicians and highly placed government figures are no longer allowed on the city payroll, the D.C. government will cease to operate altogether.
Just as city real estate assessor Michael Selden was busy botching nearly 10,000 residential assessments last fall, he secured a promotion from grade level 11 to 12—boosting his income from $32,577 to $39,045 annually. Selden’s inflated assessments—which were based on a computer program that failed to consider location, condition, and recent sale prices—stirred a public uproar, especially from residents of tony Ward 3. And they’ve forced the city to undertake costly reassessments.
District residents who are stuck with the high assessments, which determine their property taxes, are still enraged over the amount of time and money they had to spend to convince the city to lower them. One homeowner was told that if she didn’t take off work and drive in from her job in Fairfax, city assessor Carolyn Monk would not OK a rollback in her assessment. (Monk is Selden’s mother-in-law.) So she did, and her appeals hearing lasted all of three minutes.
“It’s just unbelievable what we’re being put through,’’ said one exasperated homeowner.
Take heart, homeowner: Selden will no longer be doing residential assessments, for he was recently transferred to the commercial assessment division. Which gives him an opportunity to pull an unprecedented double whammy: Drive hordes of District residents and businesses out of town…
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans stunned his constituents when he announced at a June 8 Logan Circle picnic that his wife, Noel, is pregnant with triplets. Evans told the picnickers that the couple had been trying to have a baby without success until his wife began taking fertility drugs.
“He looked slightly agonized when he announced it,’’ said one woman present at the revelation.
But LL figures that as soon as the effervescent councilmember realizes he’ll have his own crew one day to put up his campaign posters around town, his mood will change. And if Evans is really looking ahead, he will have three more reliable votes coming online in 2014…
Speaking of families that politic together, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Sr. and his wife, Romaine, celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary June 20 by attending the Democratic State Committee meeting to pick the final delegates to the August Democratic convention in Chicago.
LL always knew ol’ Harry was a romantic.
Son Harry Thomas Jr. joined them for the forgettable evening, which lasted until nearly midnight.
This was the caucus that dethroned the mayor-for-life as leader of the convention delegation and installed D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Barry came to the meeting hoping to hang on to a co-chairmanship of the delegation, but he quickly acceded to taking second seat. Barry’s Democratic colleagues considered him too controversial and unpredictable to be trusted with the leadership of the District’s delegation…
Anti–control board activist Lawrence Guyot, who failed to win election as a convention delegate in citywide voting June 1, succeeded at the much smaller June 20 meeting in securing one of the final slots. But Guyot will have a tough time fulfilling his pledge to get a resolution approved by the convention that calls for an end to the control board.
Norton is the creator of the control board and has a political stake in seeing it save the District. Her top aide, Donna Brazile, was also elected a delegate at last week’s meeting.
The contrast between this largely meaningless exercise (LL considers the D.C. Democratic party slightly less relevant than the D.C. government) and the critical meeting going on one floor above at the D.C. Zoning Commission was striking.
Hizzoner made a token appearance at the zoning meeting, where District residents, merchants, and arts boosters were debating the Washington Opera’s proposal to occupy the abandoned Woodies’ department store.
But even though the upcoming zoning commission decision will determine the look of downtown, the fate of retail shopping, and the city’s tax base, Barry chose to spend nearly two hours lounging among powerless Democratic party activists in the spacious, air-conditioned auditorium on the ground floor of 1 Judiciary Square.
LL couldn’t blame him.
Upstairs, the cramped and crowded zoning commission hearing room was sweltering. It got so hot that the commission finally allowed witnesses to remove their coats and ties. Some zoning commission members could hardly keep a straight face as Washington Opera Director Placido Domingo made a pitch, via videotape, for the move into the downtown landmark but kept stumbling over the word “Woodies.’’
Opponents of the move testified this past Monday, arguing that the purchase of Woodies by the tax-exempt opera company would remove the valuable property from city tax rolls and kill off chances of ever getting another department store downtown. But opponents appear to be greatly outnumbered.
At this week’s hearing, at-large D.C. Council candidate John Capozzi, striking a note that he sounded in his battle against mortgage giant Fannie Mae, proposed that the opera company make an annual payment to the city in lieu of taxes. Tax-exempt organizations may be feeling like the purse snatcher Capozzi chased down in Chinatown May 31—an incident that prompted local politicos to joke that the man ran away because he feared Capozzi would ask him to sign his ballot petition. The irrepressible Capozzi last week became the first council candidate to turn in his qualifying petitions, which are not due until July 7.CP
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