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Before D.C. General Hospital began RIFing doctors, nurses, and other staffers earlier this year, hospital workers referred to Ann Jackson, D.C. General’s acting director for marketing and planning, as “Queen Ann.” Despite having produced a brochure for D.C. General that deceptively used photos from other hospitals, Jackson was promoted in 1994 to the DS-15 level, where she makes a salary of more than $61,000 annually. And despite illegally collecting sick leave last year while working elsewhere, Jackson was never fired, as former D.C. Inspector General (IG) Sam McClendon recommended.
Now, after the latest round of RIFs in May that sent another 194 D.C. General employees packing—including the hospital’s chief investigator and auditor, both of whom had vigorously investigated complaints against Jackson—the acting marketing director has earned another nickname: “Queen Bee.” Bitter co-workers figure that Jackson, a longtime friend and political ally of former Ward 7 Councilmember H.R. Crawford, must have enough poison in her stinger to inflict pain on her superiors.
Otherwise, they reason, she wouldn’t still be on the payroll of a hospital that can’t afford to hire nurses and trained medical personnel for its emergency room.
“You could hire another doctor at her salary,” says a RIF’d D.C. General employee. “It’s just sickening.”
Jackson may owe her comfy position to John Fairman, picked by Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. in January to head the troubled public hospital. Fairman is one of Jackson’s mentors and close allies. While serving as the hospital’s associate administrator last year, he approved the extended sick leave for Jackson that became the focus of an internal investigation and the IG report.
The animosity toward Jackson reached such intense levels in May that hospital officials finally decided to move her to the D.C. Commission on Public Health. Now, whenever anyone calls D.C. General—if the caller is lucky enough to dial a number that still gets answered—inquiring about Jackson, the word is that she no longer works at the hospital. And the Commission on Public Health has no record of Jackson working there.
But when LL rang the number provided by Jackson’s former office at D.C. General, we found “Ann Jackson” snuggled away at the commission’s State Center for Health Statistics. “I’m not that Ann Jackson,” claimed the phantom employee when LL attempted to interview her. But according to D.C. General sources, Jackson has been detailed to the commission to work as a statistician, though the hospital is still paying her salary.
“They were tucking her here, tucking her there. At one point, she was on leave,” says George Crider, the hospital’s former chief investigator, who was RIF’d in May. “There was so much outcry over why they were keeping her, and why she got promoted. But she was untouchable.”
Crider conducted the initial investigation of Jackson last fall and discovered that she collected sick leave last summer while working for Chartered Health Plan, a private health maintenance organization. McClendon conducted a followup investigation. His report was not released, but WJLA-TV Channel 7’s I-Team disclosed in February that McClendon recommended that Jackson be fired. (Crider says another D.C. General official collected sick leave while working at Providence Hospital. Both Jackson and the other double-dipper were forced to reimburse D.C. General for the illegal pay, Crider adds.)
But LL’s favorite story about Jackson involves the full-color promotional brochure, “D.C. General Cares,” that she produced for the hospital in 1993, at a purported cost of $25,000. According to Crider and a former staffer in Jackson’s office, D.C. General officials refused to distribute the brochure after discovering it depicted an emergency room, patients, and doctors from other hospitals.
One of the photos showed an African-American doctor counseling five white patients. “No offense,” says the disgruntled former staffer, “but we wouldn’t get five white people using the hospital in a year.”
The IG also investigated allegations that Jackson was steering hospital printing contracts and other business to her political cronies and friends. Among those firms receiving business during Jackson’s tenure was JCH & Associates, a PR company headed by Jean Clarke Harris. Jackson lists Harris as a reference on her résumé. During the 1980s, Harris headed another PR firm, JAM, that employed then-First Lady Effi Barry and used its Barry and Crawford connections to win city contracts and business from Hizzoner’s allies.
It’s all so incestuous in the District.
Jackson’s position at the commission seems safe, if only because the council isn’t paying much attention to the hospital. D.C. General Acting Director Fairman could be quizzed about Jackson, if the council ever gets around to holding his confirmation hearing. But it hasn’t been scheduled yet, even though Fairman has been on the job for more than six months.
This is just one of the sordid stories at the city’s problem-plagued, debt-ridden hospital. Perhaps D.C. General can take the place of the canceled Chicago Hope TV series next season.
SCHOOL FOLLIES, PART 57
At-Large School Board Member Valencia Mohammed, staunch opponent of privatization of D.C. public schools and defender of Afrocentric education, may soon be mounting a different kind of defense. Mohammed has been accused by former staffers of placing a well-paid “research specialist” on her payroll, and requiring him to kick back part of his paycheck to her. The school board member also has been accused of cashing one of the part-timer’s paychecks after she dismissed him.
The complaints were made by two former Mohammed staffers to other board members and D.C. law enforcement agencies. Mohammed dismisses the allegations as sour grapes.
“I know all of this is a big fat story,” Mohammed said in an interview this week. “Evidently the police department can pull the payroll documents and they’ll be able to tell I’ve never done anything like that.There’s no truth to any of it.”
D.C. police investigators already have discussed the allegations with other board members, but Mohammed claims no one has yet talked to her. Police officers have been asking board members and officials whether they ever saw the research specialist, Ellis Lipscomb, in the school board member’s office. Several board members and staffers say they never laid eyes on Lipscomb in the year-and-a-half he was on the board’s payroll; a few say they saw him once or twice during that period. Lipscomb was paid at a rate of $32,640 annually.
Lipscomb did not return phone calls to discuss the allegations.
Although board members are restricted to two full-time employees, Mohammed said she was able to employ a third, Lipscomb, on a “wages-as-earned” basis. She said she terminated Lipscomb’s employment last spring, after being told that her office was spending at a rate that would exceed its budget by $10,000. At the same time, Mohammed said she fired her top aide, Kathy Judkins, for “insubordination” and poor job performance. And she dismissed her second employee, her clerk and stepdaughter Dorinda Benjamin. But Mohammed gave both Judkins and Benjamin letters of praise when they left her office.
Judkins and Benjamin are the only ones making the allegations about Lipscomb, Mohammed claims. “Dorinda is very angry at her father for even being associated with me, so this is her way of getting back at him,” she says. (Mohammed and Benjamin’s father are separated.)
During her two-and-a-half years on the board, Mohammed has been outspoken in arguing that the nation’s highest-paid school board is not paid enough. She was moved to tears last fall when the board, bowing to public pressure, voted against accepting scheduled hefty pay raises. But Mohammed was relieved to discover later that the vote was not binding, and she, along with a majority of those who voted against the unpopular pay hike, quietly pocketed the higher salary of $33,000 annually.
Mohammed has been a vocal opponent of experiments to improve D.C. public education, particularly private management of schools. She hints that privatization advocates are the real source of the payroll allegations. “The rumors always seem to surface when there’s a heated debate before the board, like this privatization,” Mohammed says. “I think they’re trying to weaken me by trying to distract me.”
The Mohammed investigation is just the latest controversy in the endless privatization fight. The board has twice failed to bring to a vote a measure that would allow individual schools to hire a private company—probably Minneapolis’ Educational Alternatives Inc.—to run them. Mohammed and her allies accuse privatization supporters of trying to place African-American students in the hands of white businesspeople.
School board President Wilma Harvey first refused to bring the privatization proposal to a vote at the July 19 meeting, when proponents said they had the votes to carry the day. Several attempts since to schedule a vote on the volatile issue have failed for lack of a quorum. Supporters of the privatization option stayed away from the meeting Friday, July 28, when they saw they would lose on a 5-5 tie vote because one of their number, Ward 3’s Erika Landberg, was out of town. Some complained that Harvey, who has switched sides and now opposes the proposal, purposely scheduled the meeting in Landberg’s absence.
At this rate, the board will settle the privatization issue just in time for Christopher Barry to be elected mayor.
The Rev. John Steinbruck of Luther Place Memorial Church says he never endorsed AIDS activist Steve Michael when Michael last year sided with Steinbruck in the church’s battle over its Logan Circle housing complex for homeless women (see “Loose Lips,” 7/7). At the time, Michael was running for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Logan Circle. “Michael, in my estimation, is a young man with many, many, many problems,” Steinbruck says. “He is a very, very sad person. If there is any way I could help him, I would. But I don’t think we would help him by electing him to any office or putting him in any kind of position of responsibility.”
Michael, who currently heads ACT-UP Washington, last month announced his candidacy for president of the United States. He probably shouldn’t count on capturing Steinbruck’s vote next November.