- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

Katrice Bryant is the mystery woman in the Ronnie Few case.
No one seems to know where the former top aide to acting District of Columbia Fire Chief Few has gone, especially a special grand jury in Augusta, Ga., probing the chief's former fire department.
The grand jury, which is focusing its investigation on Chief Few, issued a subpoena for Miss Bryant, 27, several weeks ago, but police officers have not been able to find her, sources familiar with the case told The Washington Times.
Chief Few ran the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department from 1997 until July 10, when he took over the top post in the District for an annual salary of $130,000. The D.C. Council is expected to consider his confirmation in November.
Led by Chief Few and Miss Bryant, the county Fire Department hosted the 77th annual Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs Conference from May 30 to June 4. A few weeks after it ended, the hotel where the conference was held was short at least $3,000, and a local vendor was owed $23,000 by the Fire Department.
The Fire Department still owes money for conference expenses, said Sacha Dick, the association's executive director, adding that Chief Few and Miss Bryant were responsible for the event.
Miss Bryant "was the coordinator of everything," said Mrs. Dick.
Responsibilities for the conference were divided among committees, such as publicity, registration and entertainment, conference documents obtained by The Times show.
Miss Bryant was assigned to up to eight committees, more than any other person.
Chief Few was assigned to two or three committees and was the only person assigned to sponsorship, which said he "should gather as much sponsorship as possible in order to decrease the amount of expenditures in order to ensure a higher profit," the documents show.
Organizers anticipated a $16,000 profit, Mrs. Dick said. A few weeks later, bills started rolling in.
"At this time, [the association] feels the loss is due to mismanagement due to Augusta's role," Mrs. Dick said.
Chief Few did not return several telephone messages seeking comments. The chief repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing and said he is not the subject of the grand jury probe.
The Times first reported in June that Chief Few is one subject of a special grand jury investigating corruption and mismanagement in Augusta-Richmond County.
Miss Bryant abruptly resigned from her post in Augusta on Aug. 31, providing no reason for her decision and leaving no information on her future employment plans.
Police officers tried to serve the subpoena to Miss Bryant at her apartment, but she already had moved out. The forwarding address she left belonged to her parents in Vienna, Ga.
Relatives there told officers that Miss Bryant was not there, and they would not tell the officers where she was, the sources said.
Miss Bryant's father, Jasper Bryant, told The Times recently he does not know where his daughter is. He declined to comment further.
The grand jury probe escalated Sept. 20, when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation raided Chief Few's former Fire Department offices and those of two other agencies and seized financial records.
Miss Bryant also played a central role in the annual Media Phoenix Awards, an annual black-tie gala for "the best of the media to accept their awards for Fire Department coverage," she wrote in a Fire Department newsletter.
Chief Few's involvement in the awards became another subject of the grand jury's investigation after auditors found he created an unauthorized account for the program, sources said.
Chief Few opened the account with a government tax ID number without the legally required authorization from the County Council, Augusta Mayor Bob Young told The Times.
Miss Bryant helped plan and organize the awards ceremonies, sources said. She wrote about the specifics of the ceremony in several Fire Department newsletters.
Miss Bryant joined the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department shortly after Chief Few began his tenure there. As public information officer, she responded to media inquiries about fires, accidents and other news.
But she also served as the Chief Few's personal crisis manager when documents revealed he was one subject of the grand jury probe.
Miss Bryant fiercely protected her boss, telling The Times in June that he was included in the grand jury probe because of "lies, rumors and people's personal vendettas." She did not identify who had "vendettas" against him.
Augusta reporters even those who admire her have described Miss Bryant as "very protective," and one said she takes questions about the investigation of her boss personally.
Austin Rhodes, a columnist and TV/radio talk-show host in Augusta, said Miss Bryant and Chief Few "are very good personal friends."
"She takes a lot of the aggressive comments about him personally, almost like someone would for a father or an uncle," he said. "She is very protective of him and he of her."
Chief Few seems to reciprocate that loyalty, as evidenced by his description of Miss Bryant as "an excellent employee" and his battle for her higher-than-normal salary.
In a flurry of letters between Chief Few and other government officials in 1997 and 1998, he argued that Miss Bryant should receive a salary higher than that of any regular firefighter and more than authorized for her position.

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