- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

District police said Wednesday they have charged a city employee and are looking for a second suspect in connection with the alleged groping of two young women in the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

The separate incidents occurred in the first days of the program, which this year employs more than 14,100 youths over six weeks.

The first incident involved a 17-year-old girl June 29 at the agency’s headquarters on South Capitol Street Southwest.

Police have charged Thomas Nelson, 54, a Department of Employment Services file clerk, with second-degree touching of a minor in connection with the incident.

The incident began as Mr. Nelson lead the girl through empty rooms in the building and began asking her if she liked oral sex, according to police charging documents.

Later in the day, when other employees left for lunch, Mr. Nelson allegedly handed the young woman a note with his name and address and began rubbing her thigh and behind. He then exposed himself and asked, “What do you think about that?” the charging documents state.

The young woman reported the alleged incident to her mother, who accompanied her daughter to work the next day and told supervisors.

Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, of the Metropolitan Police Department, said Mr. Nelson will remain in jail until his preliminary hearing Monday.

Chief Newsham said Mr. Nelson has a criminal record but his last arrest was more than 10 years ago, and it was not a sex-related charge.

The second incident occurred Friday and involved a contractor at Anacostia Senior High School who allegedly touched a 19-year-old woman when she reported for work, police said.

“We know who the individual is but he hasn’t been located,” Chief Newsham said.

The young women are still in the program and have been offered professional counseling and legal aid, said Lisa Mallory, director of the Department of Employment Services.

Program officials said safety training has always been part of their job-orientation meetings but directors and staffers are holding additional meetings with participants to re-emphasize the importance of reporting improper or even questionable behavior.

The program is open to city residents 14 to 21 years old and places them in government, nonprofit or private sector jobs.

Chief Newsham said this is the first time he can recall an allegation of assault in the program, started in 1979 by then-Mayor Marion Barry. However, the program has a history of mismanagement, particularly in 2008 under then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. The program ran $30 million over budget, paying some nonresidents and others who never showed up to work.

This year’s program is smaller than in past years, when as many as 20,000 youths were employed, but will still cost $21.05 million, said Eric Goulet, budget director for Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

“These alleged acts are extremely alarming, disappointing and reprehensible,” Mr. Gray said last week. “We will not tolerate for a moment the victimization of our young people in the [program] who have the right to expect this to be a wholesome, healthy and enriching work experience.”

This year, more than 4,000 youths were put on a waiting list before getting a job before extra city revenues allowed for more hires.

The Gray administration says it will pay for the extra jobs in part with some of the $107.1 million surplus that emerged in revised revenue estimates for this fiscal year.