- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2000

The D.C. inspector general is investigating the head of the Youth Services Administration on charges of fraud, contract steering, favoritism, misuse of government property and submitting false documents, according to city records obtained by The Washington Times.

The documents include a letter from Inspector General Charles C. Maddox to Deputy Mayor Carolyn N. Graham in which he says he has received charges of Administrator Gayle L. Turner's "systematic abuse of her authority."

Ms. Graham yesterday said the investigation will not be completed until Dec. 13.

She said many of the charges are unfounded, adding that she suspects they were made by disgruntled employees.

Ms. Graham said the inspector general asked that the investigation be completed by May 22, but she asked for an extension to ensure a thorough inquiry.

"We're digging deep. We have not covered up anything," she said, adding that she trusts Ms. Turner and believes the YSA chief will be exonerated.

YSA mainly supervises juvenile delinquents in halfway houses and at the Oak Hill Youth Facility in Jessup, Md.

The most serious of the charges in Mr. Maddox's letter are contract steering and fraudulently providing false employment documentation to a car dealer to allow one of her aides to buy a luxury car.

The inspector general's inquiry is focused mainly on her hiring about a dozen employees, mostly administrators, without going through normal city hiring procedures.

Mr. Maddox said in the letter he had received charges that Ms. Turner was "engaging in noncompetitive hiring for multiple positions, some of which have been awarded to the administrator's personal friends."

"She never let anyone here apply for those jobs. She was giving them to people she knew and then let them do whatever they want," said a YSA worker who complained to the inspector general. "No one would listen before."

Ms. Graham said many of the new hires are administrators whom Ms. Turner could legally appoint to their posts. She said she would investigate other charges of appointments of lower-level workers.

The investigation includes charges of Ms. Turner misusing city-owned cellular telephones and vehicles, and not properly documenting the attendance of the housing and culinary staff at Oak Hill.

YSA employees said Ms. Turner has continued over the last two years to bring in highly paid employees without notifying current workers of job vacancies.

Many of the positions pay between $60,000 and $70,000 a year, and many of the agency's employees were passed over despite having been managers and holding master's degrees.

John Walker, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, said some positions filled by appointees were once positions for union employees. He said he was not notified that union jobs were being filled through appointments.

"We should have been notified before we lost a position," said Mr. Walker, a YSA social worker. "These jobs are not supposed to be filled by appointment."

Ms. Turner, who had worked in Virginia, was appointed in July 1998 by former Chief Management Officer Camille Cates Barnett, who resigned in January 1999.

Ms. Graham was an assistant management officer for Mrs. Barnett and was one of eight of her employees retained by Mayor Anthony A. Williams when he took office last year.

Mr. Maddox also is looking into charges that senior YSA managers ran up cellular-telephone bills and used city vehicles for personal use, such as taking them home at night, which is banned by Congress.

A separate investigation by the Department of Human Services Office of Investigation and Compliance found that "evidence suggests" YSA Special Assistant Ira Holland and Erika Brown, executive assistant for Ms. Turner, used city vehicles for their personal use.

Verna Clayborne, interim chief of the office of Investigation and Compliance, recommended the two employees be disciplined.

Ms. Graham said they were not disciplined because she did not feel the evidence was strong enough. "There was no way to reach those conclusions," she said.

YSA workers said they must use their personal vehicles for agency business because of a shortage of YSA vehicles even though the agency has leased three sport utility vehicles and two sedans for designated senior staffers.

The employees said they are forbidden to drive the vehicles, which sit parked in managers' reserved parking spaces all day.

Using city vehicles for personal use and assigning vehicles to managers who rarely use them violates a policy established by Mr. Williams this year after The Times reported that city managers were purchasing SUVs and other luxury vehicles for their exclusive use.

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