The new director of Department of Employment Services, Rochelle Webb, had one of her employees chauffeur her to and from her home for her first two months on the job in an apparent violation of District law, records show.
Shortly after the Gray administration began, DOES reassigned Vernon Lindsay, a “support services specialist,” to be Webb’s driver, according to documents DOES submitted to Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells‘ office. (Wells had a hearing last week on the city’s on various issues related to the city’s fleet).
Webb had Lindsay pick her up and drop her off from home during her first two months at DOES. Or in government-speak, Lindsay “transported the Department Director to and from temporary residence and to attend all meetings using DC 5896, a 2007 Chevy Impala. … This practice was done from January 2011 to February 2011. The Director is no longer being transported from or to place of residence,” DOES wrote in response to Wells’ written questions.
City law says that no city employee “shall utilize the services of any District government employee for use as a chauffeur from home to work,” except with advanced written authorization from the mayor. Wells’ office asked DOES for copy of said written authorization for Webb, but DOES didn’t provide any. Instead, DOES provided a Jan. 12 duty reassignment form for Lindsay that sure looks like it made him Webb’s personal chauffeur. (You can see for yourself below. It’s “Exhibit C.”)
Neville Waters, a spokesman for DOES, says Webb spent her first two months in the District living—at taxpayer expense—at the W Hotel downtown (he says they had the cheapest rate). Waters says Webb’s office is located at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE, and she requested a driver because she had just moved to the District and was unfamiliar with the area. Evidently, she was unfamiliar enough with the area that she didn’t realize the DOES office is a block from the Minnesota Avenue station on Metro’s Orange Line; a trip from Metro Center or McPherson Square, near the W, would have taken about 20 minutes and cost $2.80. (This post originally said Minnesota Avenue was on the Blue Line.)
Shortly after she found a permanent place to live, Webb was informed that city law prohibited her from being chauffeured to and from home, Waters says. Webb stopped the rides between work and home as soon as she found out.
It’s worth noting that Webb’s son recently resigned after it became public that he’d landed a city job.
DOES has long been under fire from critics for mismanaging the summer youth jobs program and not providing enough job training programs for residents. When Mayor Vince Gray announced Webb’s appointment in December, he said he was tasking her with a “dramatic transformation” of the agency.
Former DOES Director Joe Walsh says he either took Metrorail or the bus to work, depending on which DOES office he was going to. When he first arrived at DOES, Walsh says, there was a long-time staffer who considered himself to be the director’s driver. Walsh says every couple of days he would need to be driven to meetings, but would make it a point to have a different staffer assigned to drive him so no one considered their primary job to be his driver. (Walsh did cop to having been driven home one day, when he was really sick and his chief of staff wouldn’t let him take the Metro.)
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