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In the past few weeks, City Desk readers have pissed and moaned about accountability in District government affairs whether it’s Marion Barry’s 62nd fall from grace, the D.C. Council’s investigation into Fenty crony contracts, or Pershing Park. From commenter “Sparkle”:
“Vincent Gray and the constituents of ward 8 enabled Barry for decades. I doubt anything has changed. Barry stole from the people that needed him most. But the people still love him…”
Super-commenter Rick Mangus offered up some of his typical poetry: “Vincent Gray is a PUSSY!” Friend of the Friends wrote us yesterday with this bit of knowledge: “First, let me say that I know Skinner. I was in those marathon study sessions…that he never came to. Sinclaire is full of shit. He will tell anyone that listens that they should pay him to help you get with Fenty.”
Maybe we just have conspiracy nuts for readers. Or maybe there’s something going on here—-a sense that people that do wrong never get truly punished. Today, the Examiner’s Michael Neibauer has a sweet story that may only deepen your distrust in the District government’s ability to properly adjudicate bad behavior.
Neibauer reports that the District was ordered to pay $3.4 million in 2009 to more than three dozen city employees who had successfully appealed their terminations. Among the employees receiving a fat payout is a cop who had been busted and jailed for drunk driving. The cop lost his license, but not his job. So why did these appeals cost so much? The District appeal process took so long that when the employees won their jobs back they were entitled to back pay and benefits.
“The Office of Employee Appeals has a backlog of 533 cases, only four administrative judges on staff and finances so depleted that it can’t even hire court reporters, agency leaders say. Cases stemming from basic budget-related layoffs to terminations for cause often drag on for years, and those workers who successfully appeal are ultimately paid ‘to take a long vacation,’ said Ward 3 D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, government operations committee chairwoman.”
What the city’s employee appeals office should have known is that the lawyers handling these cases aren’t dumb. The lawyer who handled the drunk cop’s appeal was Robert Deso, an accomplished veteran with a long track record as one of the police union’s main advocates. The union’s president, Kristopher Baumann is no slouch either. These are guys that don’t back down from any fight.
It’s troubling that the city can’t even fire people correctly.