- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance has begun an investigation of Fire Chief Ronnie Few for his ties to a consultant the chief hired, said Kathy S. Williams, the office's general counsel.
"We are looking into it. We were unaware of it until we saw today's paper," Miss Williams said yesterday.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that Chief Few worked as a volunteer instructor for the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute before hiring Mr. Holmes as a consultant for the District. Mr. Holmes has billed the city for $23,500 under three no-bid contracts.
Chief Few had said he was an unpaid instructor for Mr. Holmes, receiving reimbursements only for travel and meals.
D.C. disclosure laws require city officials to declare their affiliations with city contractors and payments from contractors of more than $100. Filing false financial-disclosure statements can be punished by fines of up to $5,000 and up to five years in jail, according to the D.C. Code.
Chief Few's ties to Mr. Holmes are extensive: He has worked for Mr. Holmes' institute as an instructor and was named Fire Chief of the Year by the institute in 1998, according to Chief Few's confirmation testimony in September 2000.
Miss Williams said she must complete an investigation within 90 days of its opening. She said the investigation should be opened officially by the end of this week.
Chief Few, who said during an interview Thursday that he was not aware of the law, did not respond to further inquiries yesterday.
Lisa Bass, the chief's spokeswoman, said Chief Few met with Miss Williams yesterday but would have no public comment on the ongoing investigation, other than to say he was complying with Miss Williams' requests.
Tony Bullock, spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said the mayor feels the incident is little more than a misunderstanding on Chief Few's part regarding his responsibility to disclose his volunteer work. But the failure to disclose ties to Mr. Holmes would need to be investigated, Mr. Bullock said.
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Margret Nedelkoff Kellems said she also would look into Chief Few's actions.
"We take all allegations seriously. We have every confidence in the chief, but any allegation of a senior official in government we need to look into," Mrs. Kellems said. "All government officials have a serious obligation to the public trust. I withhold judgment until I have all the information from everywhere."
D.C. Council Member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said she intends to question Chief Few further about his links to Mr. Holmes during her committee meeting tomorrow.
The Washington Times found that Chief Few hired Mr. Holmes through "single-available-source" contracts, which are justified if Mr. Holmes who is semi-retired and is the sole employee of the Holmes Institute is the only contractor available to provide the service. But fire department sources tell The Times that numerous other consultants including the National Fire Training Academy could provide the same services.
"There is a perception of a conflict of interest," Mrs. Patterson said. "I think the investigation [by the Office of Campaign Finance] is appropriate.
"Obviously our contracting folks should take a look at it," she said.
"Our statutes about conflict of interest of personnel are pretty explicit that one is not to benefit financially from their position," Mrs. Patterson said.
Lt. Ray Sneed, president of the D.C. Fire Fighters Association Local 36, said Chief Few needs to be investigated completely. He said Chief Few should have known he needed to disclose his relationship with Mr. Holmes.
"Ignorance is no excuse," Lt. Sneed said.
"He said he did not know, but I feel this is a situation that shows how he operates," said Lt. Sneed, who says he was originally a supporter of Chief Few. He says he now considers himself a critic. "When the people in the department and community see this type of behavior at the top of an agency, it is not difficult for them to understand the lack of leadership."
City records show that Chief Few and Assistant Chief Gary Garland approved three single-available-source contracts for Mr. Holmes since October 2000. Mr. Holmes worked 13 days for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
The fire department provided some documents for contracts let to Mr. Holmes in October 2000 and April 2001 that totaled $21,000. But department officials could not provide documents for a $2,500 contract awarded to Mr. Holmes for work performed last week.
Chief Few and Chief Garland have worked as unpaid instructors for the Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute, which was founded and run by Mr. Holmes.
Chief Few, who is paid $130,000 annually, and Chief Garland, who is paid $105,000 per year, said they did not know they were supposed to list their affiliation with Mr. Holmes.
Miss Williams said she is looking into whether Chief Garland also should be investigated by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.
Chief Few and Chief Garland said they were volunteers. Mr. Holmes said the two men received payments for travel and were provided lodging and food at Dillard University in New Orleans, where the institute holds its summer classes.
Mr. Holmes, 75, is a retired Oklahoma City assistant fire chief. Mr. Holmes, who identifies himself in his literature as a doctor, but acknowledges he holds an honorary doctorate, has been a friend of Chief Few's for more than 20 years.
Chief Few said he hired Mr. Holmes without advertising for other consultants because he had worked before with Mr. Holmes and he was available.
Chief Few, who refers to his friend as "Dr. Holmes," said he was not aware that Mr. Holmes held an honorary doctorate from a defunct college.
Chief Few also said he was not aware that Mr. Holmes was faulted in a 1995 D.C. Auditor's investigation with providing a portion of a 1990 D.C. Fire Department promotional examination that was full of technical, grammatical and typographical errors.
Mr. Holmes was paid $191,853 for his portion of the test.
The auditor found that the test listed the use of equipment that the D.C. Fire Department did not have and recommended procedures that conflicted with the department's standards.

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