- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2001

A top District of Columbia public school official is accusing city officials of interfering in audit reports, delaying transportation reforms and other unethical conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.

Court-appointed school Transportation Administrator David Healey has accused school system General Counsel Veleter Mazyck and Maria Amato, senior corporation counsel for bankruptcy and finance, of trying to influence the findings and format of a court-ordered audit of the transportation division.

Mr. Healey, appointed last fall by a U.S. District Court judge to oversee the division, also accuses the two officials of unethical conduct regarding the audit and personnel matters.

"We have discussed my concerns regarding the professional conduct, objectivity, integrity and behavior that I find to be unacceptable by Ms. Amato … and Ms. Mazyck," Mr. Healey wrote in a March 27 letter to Special Master Elise Baach.

"I believe attempts have been made to compromise the position of the administrator and create bias concerning the integrity and assured independence of the position."

Because of ongoing complaints, the mayor's special counsel for receivership and institutional reform litigation has recommended internal investigations of the matter by the Office of Corporation Counsel and the school system.

"We agreed that the allegations of impropriety … regarding the conduct of DCPS' General Counsel and Assistant Corporation Counsel … should be investigated independently by both agencies," Special Counsel Grace Lopes wrote in a March 22 letter to Mr. Healey after a meeting between top city staff and Superintendent Paul L. Vance.

Ms. Lopes referred the matter and another complaint against Mr. Healey to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General.

Mr. Healey wanted to hire a technical writer to create the system's plan to extricate itself from a 1997 class action suit, Nikita Petties et al. v. District of Columbia, that resulted in court supervision over the transportation division.

Just as Mr. Healey was about to hire a candidate, sources said, Ms. Amato and Ms. Mazyck persuaded him to hire Michael Gatling, a friend of Ms. Amato.

Soon after, Mr. Gatling had trouble following the transportation administrator's authority, sources said. Later, Mr. Healey spoke with Ms. Mazyck about terminating Mr. Gatling.

According to school sources and Mr. Healey's accusations, Ms. Mazyck informed Ms. Amato that Mr. Gatling was about to be fired. She then told Mr. Gatling, who soon resigned. Later, Mr. Gatling complained to Ms. Lopes, accusing Mr. Healey of inappropriate comments and behavior.

A spokesman for the D.C. inspector general confirmed receipt of the complaint and said it was "currently under consideration."

Mr. Gatling, Ms. Lopes and Ms. Mazyck were unavailable for comment yesterday, either out of the country or on vacation.

School sources say Mr. Vance has ordered an investigation into the complaints against Ms. Mazyck, but officials were unable to confirm whether it had started.

Ms. Amato told school officials she is no longer working on the Petties case for unrelated reasons.

City officials declined comment any pending investigation.

"As far as I know, I have seen no specific written allegations against me," Ms. Amato said yesterday. "I am aware of an ongoing investigation against the transportation administrator by the inspector general. The complaints against me are untrue. I will be vindicated when the investigation, if any, is complete."

Mr. Healey declined to comment on the case.

Plaintiff counsel Beth Goodman said she was concerned about the complaints. "Our main focus is still transportation services. If [Mr. Healey] is not getting the cooperation and resources to do what he was brought in to do, we may have to address this with the court."

The special master and Mrs. Goodman have raised questions about the contract process, its administration and Ms. Mazyck's placement in charge of it she is defendant's counsel in the lawsuit. They have also complained that Ms. Mazyck could see audit reports and meet with auditors before or without the other parties.

Ms. Baach in a March 30 letter suggested the parties in the lawsuit should "negotiate a new procedure" for the second phase of the court-ordered audit."

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