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A D.C. green job training program that, according to some participants, involved little more than passing out free energy-efficient light bulbs door to door is under investigation by the Department of Employment Services, according to an agency spokeswoman.

LL wrote about L.S. Caldwell & Associates’ questionable publicly funded job training program in January. Caldwell’s owner, Loretta Caldwell, said at the time that her program was providing valuable training and that the participants who were complaining to LL were unreasonably disgruntled.

Ron Hantz, one of those unhappy participants, says that after LL’s story ran, Caldwell shifted the program’s focus dramatically. Instead of handing out free light bulbs or sitting at booths at Home Depot, the job trainees were instead sent to D.C.’s many museums and tasked with writing reports about various exhibits. For instance, at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, Hantz says Caldwell wanted a report on an exhibit detailing the effects of climate change. At the Museum of American History, the green job trainees were told to record their thoughts about an exhibit on electricity, Hantz says.

Thomas Batts, another job trainee, confirms Hantz’s account.

“We’ve been to all of them,” Batts says of the city’s museums. He adds that Caldwell didn’t seem to care if none of the job trainees wrote reports on the exhibits. “It’s just to get us out of the building,” he says.

Calls placed to Caldwell yesterday and today have not been returned. (Last week, Mayor Vince Gray named Caldwell to a 17-member advisory panel tasked with helping the mayor reform the embattled Certified Business Enterprise program.)

Hantz says he’s voiced concerns about the program to the Department of Employment Services, which pays up to 90 percent of salaries for Caldwell’s job trainees. Hantz says an investigator from the agency recently contacted him and indicated the agency is taking a hard look at Caldwell’s program.

Najla Haywood, a spokeswoman for DOES, confirmed there was an investigation, which she said limited the agency’s ability to comment further.

Batts says his “training” today consisted of being told to find a public library where he could write a summary of what he’s learned from Caldwell’s training program. He said one of Caldwell’s employees made it clear that the reports are to have a positive spin. Batts says he’s not be “browbeaten” and says he’s received none of the training for green jobs he thought was going to receive when he signed up for the program. “I just want what I was promised,” he says.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery