- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two D.C. Council members are questioning outgoing Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s use of $495,000 from a job-training program to provide separation pay for his political appointees.

A spokesman for Mr. Fenty defended the expenditure Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

“The bottom line is that no funds will be redirected from job training to cover costs for severance pay,” Mafara Hobson said in an e-mail. The money, she said, was “surplus” funding in the job training budget.

Council members Michael Brown and Kwame Brown, in a Tuesday letter to the mayor, have asked Mr. Fenty, whose last day in office is Jan. 2, for an explanation of the expenditure.

“In the midst of our current jobs crisis, how can you begin to justify removing resources that are aimed at preparing District residents for sustainable employment?” the council members ask.

The council members wrote that the money transfer “typifies the lack of commitment to workforce development that you have demonstrated over your entire term in office.”

They asked the mayor to return the funds to the program.

Traci Hughes, a spokeswoman for Kwame Brown, said Wednesday that the council member has not heard a response from the mayor’s office.

Mrs. Hughes said the council member has no quarrel with separation pay, which is standard for D.C. employees, but that “he does take issue with where the money comes from.”

It wasn’t clear how many staff members would receive the severance pay, said David Umansky, a spokesman for the chief financial officer who certified for the mayor that the funds were available in the current Department of Employment Services budget.

The council has struggled to maintain job-training funds as the city budget has been slashed to cover a shortfall in 2011.

On Wednesday, Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray said using such funds for severance pay seemed inappropriate, though he said he doesn’t know what commitments had been made to Mr. Fenty’s appointees.

“We need to put every dollar possible into job training,” Mr. Gray said, citing the city’s high unemployment rate.

The $495,000 funds transfer came in just below a $500,000 limit that would have required D.C. Council approval.

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