- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

District of Columbia Council member Kathy Patterson yesterday said she intends to question police Chief Charles H. Ramsey today about police officials who illegally disposed of $300,000 worth of new automobile parts last year.

"We will be raising some question about this," said Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the police department. "We will be asking the chief to respond to these issues."

The police chief is scheduled to appear before the committee's budget review hearing today.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that police officials without authority or proper documentation sold the car parts at auction, netting $4,511 or 1.5 percent of their worth.

As a result of The Times' inquiries, Chief Ramsey has asked for investigations by the D.C. Inspector General and the police department's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Police officials relied entirely on vendors rather than their own employees to determine that the department's $300,000 inventory of car parts was obsolete and should be destroyed.

The Times has found that Serco Management Services Inc., which was hired by the police department to repair its cars, or Serco's parts vendors determined that the car parts were worthless.

Police officials never checked to see if the parts could be used and instead sold them through an auction as junk, according to sources familiar with the transactions.

The department's $3.5 million contract with Serco required the car maintenance company to use the department's parts before it could purchase others.

But the department paid for new parts, with an 8 percent markup, while its old parts sat in boxes on the top floor of the fleet maintenance building.

"[Police officials] were given a list of parts and they could have ordered them to be put back on the shelves, but they did nothing," said a source familiar with the matter. "No one even looked at them."

Serco manager Dave Tetreault said he could not comment.

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 found and the parts were taken directly from the department to auction, The Times found.

The only documentation provided to The Times from the police department was an inventory list prepared by Serco, which listed almost every automobile part as "obsolete."

When the police department began negotiating with Serco to repair it vehicles, police officials wanted the company to buy its entire parts inventory. Serco balked but agreed to use the parts before it brought in new parts, according to sources familiar with negotiations.

After Serco began making repairs in September 1999, a parts inventory was made jointly by Serco workers and police clerks. The joint inventory was done because the police department failed to provide its own inventory list.

After the inventory was conducted, Serco workers and Serco parts vendors went through the inventory and put most of the police department's parts in boxes and took them out of the parts room and declared them "obsolete" parts.

Those parts were then taken to the third floor of the fleet maintenance building at 1501 S. Capitol St. SW and new parts were put in their place in the parts room., sources said.

A list of the obsolete parts was provided to the police department to decide whether they should be returned to the inventory or destroyed. But nothing was done.

Brender Gregory, director of business services for the department, told The Times that former Police Lt. Clarence Major worked with Serco to identify obsolete parts.

But Lt. Major, who worked for only five months as interim fleet department manager from the department, told The Times he was incorrect.

The retired lieutenant, who is now a sergeant with the D.C. Public Housing Authority police, said the parts already had been removed from the parts room when he was assigned to fleet in November 1999.

He said he assumed the parts had been there for years and did not know they had been removed from the parts room within the previous two months. "By the time I got there it had been decided," Sgt. Major said.

Sgt. Major had been placed as manager of fleet maintenance after Eric Coard, chief executive director of corporate support, suspended former business services manager Tom Burse and former fleet manager Robert Rose.

The two managers had been suspended because the department failed to have its vehicles safety inspected and properly registered.

After an internal investigation, both men were exonerated when documents showed they had complained to Mr. Coard that the inspections and registrations were not completed.

Mr. Burse and Mr. Rose were reinstated and Mr. Coard received a minor reprimand. Mr. Burse eventually retired, and Mr. Rose is working for the department's property division. Neither men wanted to comment.

Sources said Sgt. Major had no fleet maintenance experience, as did his successor, Claude Willis, who was eventually fired in February for incompetence.

"I don't know why they kept putting these people in here, who knew absolutely nothing," said a source familiar with the fleet operations. "This operation was in trouble and no one in headquarters seemed to care."

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