There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Carl Cephas has spent the last 10 years of his life fighting his one-time employer, the Library of Congress. Last Christmas, the Library fired Cephas after placing him on unpaid leave for almost six months and 27 years as an employee. This Christmas, it rejected his appeal of his firing.
Cephas first stirred up trouble in the late ’90s by keeping a serial-killer trading card set and a copy of Going Postal on his desk. The two items together weirded out his colleagues, so Cephas underwent a psychological evaluation to prove that he was, in fact, just a harmless musical archivist with a weird sense of humor.
I wrote about Cephas in November 2009. This is how I laid out the series of escalating arguments that got him put on leave the previous summer: There was the time he told his supervisor Mary Wedgewood, “Fuck you, go suck eggs,” after she served him with a written reprimand. The time he “engaged in a long and very loud” phone conversation about the dead mice he’d trapped in his apartment, which some of his co-workers believed was “intended to disgust everyone in the room.” There were the many times he refused to clean up the cultural curios that cluttered his work area, his penchant for introducing the word shit into conversation, and his habit of greeting his friends by bellowing, “Hey motherfucker!”
Shortly after our story came out in 2009, the Library concluded its investigation into Cephas’ behavior. Then they fired him. In September of 2010, Cephas had his appeal hearing. That investigation is apparently over as well, and the Library has not changed its mind.
Cephas, who also also runs the Washington Psychotronic Film Society, sent me an e-mail update late last night, invoking Wedgewood, the supervisor with whom Cephas frequently butted heads:
The Library of Congress rejected my plea. I’ve lost my final appeal there. Sue Vita said that my coming back would be devastating even though she has never worked with me. Now, I have to find a proper legal team because now I can sue the L.C. Every one there knows that the L.C. hired Mary Wedgewood as my babysitter. She even made a character up that does not exist. She told a co-worker (who wants to remain anonymous) that her sole purpose there was to get rid of me. Perhaps out of revenge for the Going Postal episode which I was also innocent off. This is one royal mess. All I need is for the right people to hear my story. They won’t be intimidated by the L.C.’s bullying.
I’ve written a few notes to show you how absurd this thing really is. If something should happen to me, please forward these notes so that people will know the truth. I am not a bad man. I don’t deserve this maddening treatment. Thanks for listening.
I sent Cephas an e-mail asking for more details and will update when I hear back.
Bonus: Cephas, who is big into theatrics, made some extranormal videos in which characters talk about Cephas’ travails in the third person. (Sample dialogue: “His cracked tooth got the better of him. His body is becoming septic.”)
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery