- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Metropolitan Police Department officials last year illegally disposed of about $300,000 worth of new automobile parts as junk without proper documentation or authority.
Documents obtained by The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that most of the parts classified as "obsolete" actually were usable by the police department.
The parts were trucked out of the department's garage and sold at auction, netting $4,511 about 1.5 percent of the original cost of the parts.
As a result of inquiries by The Times, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday asked the department's Office of Professional Responsibility and the D.C. inspector general to investigate the disposal of the car parts.
"If there is a rat, we will find it. If it is criminal or if it is administrative, someone is going to answer," Chief Ramsey said.
"I want to get to the bottom of this, I want to see what is going on and if it is legit. I'm taking this as far as I need to go."
D.C. law requires that excess or old government property be inventoried and delivered to the Department of Administrative Services for disposal. No inventory of the parts could be located and the parts were taken directly from the department to auction, The Times found.
The police department now must buy new parts from the private firm that maintains its vehicles and pay about 8 percent more than the cost of the disposed parts.
The disposed parts most still in the manufacturers' factory boxes were loaded onto pallets and trucked to Colonial Auction Services Inc. in Upper Marlboro, Md., where they were auctioned off March 17 of last year for as little as $10 for a pallet.
An incomplete list of bidders provided by Colonial to the police department shows the parts were sold to 10 persons who hailed from Raleigh, N.C., to Nitro, W.Va. At least one buyer is identified with a false company name and address.
"We bought two [pallets] for $10 [each]. There was a lot of money in those boxes," said Keith Stathers, owner of Keith's Used Cars in Nitro. "They throw away a lot of good stuff, the government does."
Mr. Stathers said a friend bought the parts under his name and wanted the pallets for five sets of brake pads and an exhaust system. He said the rest of the parts were sold as scrap.
Colonial sold all of the parts for $5,190 and sent the department $4,511, after deducting $160 for hauling and $519 for its commission.
Colonial has been barred from bidding on contracts with the Metro transit system because its owner falsified auction documents in the early 1990s. Many charities refused to use Colonial after a 1998 Charles County probe found the company had lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for government agencies and eight charities.
Eric Coard, the police department's senior executive director of corporate support, testified before the D.C. Council on Oct. 18 that the fleet's inventory was $300,000 less than expected. He blamed a nearly $1 million cost overrun on fleet maintenance.
The Washington Times first reported that the cost overrun was caused by mismanagement of fleet maintenance after the police department contracted with Serco Corp. to repair police vehicles.
Mr. Coard told the council that the contract was underfunded rather than mismanaged.
Parts lists provided by the police department show that most of its $320,000 inventory was for cars and trucks still being used.
This newspaper requested the department's inventories of parts before Serco was hired in September 1999, the inventory of disposed parts and the inventory after the disposed parts were purged.
The Times also requested documents that authorized disposal of $300,000 worth of public property. The inventory list provided was a parts list spreadsheet prepared by Serco, rather than the department. It is not dated or signed.
Brender Gregory, the police department's director of business services, said the requested documents do not exist.
Miss Gregory,, who is directly in charge of fleet maintenance, later said the parts inventory was inside the memory of an old computer but could not be accessed. She also said the parts inventory provided by Serco was inaccurate.
Miss Gregory said the department had authority through a law allowing it to dispose of vehicles through auctions during fiscal years 1998 and 1999. The law did not allow for disposal of automobile parts.
Miss Gregory later said the parts should have been disposed of through the Department of Administrative Services.
She said that the former interim fleet manager, Lt. Clarence Major, failed to document the parts inventory and the sale of the parts and was responsible for deciding what parts to sell as scrap.
Lt. Major retired last year and is now a sergeant with the D.C. Public Housing Authority Police. He said yesterday said that, when he became interim director in November 1999, the parts already had been placed on pallets, and he assumed they were not useable. He said he requested through Mr. Coard's office that the parts be sold at auction.
"They were stacked up all over the place and Serco wasn't using them," Sgt. Major said. "That stuff was not being utilized; it was just sitting in the way."
He said he realized the normal process of disposing of government property would be too lengthy, so he proposed the auction. He said Mr. Coard's office approved sending the parts to auction.
"It wasn't something that was happening in the dark of night. Everyone knew about it," Sgt. Major said.
Miss Gregory said Sgt. Major and a Serco parts representative determined what was obsolete.
But an employee for Addison Auto Park, which operates the parts room and sells parts to Serco, said representatives from the parts companies decided what parts were obsolete.
The Addison employee, who identified himself only as Ben, made his comments in the presence of Miss Gregory and Sgt. Anthony Medoro, the police department's current interim fleet manager.
Miss Gregory fired the former fleet manager, Claude Willis, in February. He was fired the same week that The Times reported that small repairs to vehicles were being deferred by Miss Gregory because of a lack of funds.

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