- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

A former D.C. police department manager who was forced to resign in February for mismanagement of fleet operations was rehired in a similar position by the D.C. Department of Public Works.
Claude Willis, former Metropolitan Police fleet manager, resigned on Feb. 13 after he was threatened with termination by Business Services Manager Brender Gregory. Miss Gregory said then that Mr. Willis was reprimanded for "inefficiencies and incompetence" and faced termination before his resignation.
But The Washington Times has learned that Mr. Willis was recently hired to a similar post at the fleet operations unit of the D.C. Department of Public Works by Ronald Flowers, DPW's fleet manager.
Mr. Willis, contacted by phone at DPW's fleet headquarters, would not comment about his new job.
"All inquires should be directed to the appropriate office within DPW," he said.
Mr. Willis worked for Mr. Flowers prior to working for the police department, and Mr. Flowers said yesterday he did not feel he needed to check with the police department to find out why Mr. Willis resigned.
Mr. Flowers said he hired Mr. Willis about a month ago as a supervisor of his parts department to fill a temporary position. Mr. Flowers said Mr. Willis did not have to compete with other applicants for the post.
"I haven't a clue what the relationship was with him and his former boss. He worked here for several years and did a very competent job," Mr. Flowers said. "He was not inefficient in his responsibility."
D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the Public Works Committee, said that she does not get involved in personnel matters, but after inquiries by The Washington Times, she told Mr. Flowers he would be held accountable for any miscues by Mr. Willis.
"I told Mr. Flowers he would be held accountable," Mr. Schwartz said.
Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, said the rehiring apparently does not violate any city personnel rules.
Mr. Willis was first detailed to the police department in September 1999.
He had been hired by Eric Coard, senior chief executive officer of corporate support, after Mr. Coard suspended former Fleet Manager Robert Rose for failing to have police cars inspected properly. Mr. Rose is working in another management position after an investigation found he did nothing wrong.
Mr. Willis began working in fleet management when Serco Management Services Inc. was hired to repair police vehicles. He was hired as fleet manager in May 1999, which was during the time that the police department experienced cost overruns of almost $1 million on Serco's $3.5 million contract.
An ongoing investigation by The Washington Times showed that the costs escalated because of poor oversight by the police department's management. Mr. Willis warned Mr. Coard about the overruns but instead of finding new funds, the police department had Serco cut services on the repairs of police cars.
Mr. Willis' relationship with the police department became strained after Miss Gregory was hired as his boss. At the time, he said she undermined his authority.
During his tenure as fleet manager, the General Services Administration questioned thousands of dollars in repairs billed to the city by Serco.
The GSA said that the police department wasted $1.2 million because the department's lack of qualified managers "weakened" the department's ability to control costs.
The audit found that Serco invoices for simple repairs seemed unusually high $56.08 bills for replacing a windshield wiper, $157 charges to replace a light bulb.
After Mr. Coard contested the GSA audit, The Washington Times checked the GSA's work and uncovered double billing by Serco and little oversight by the police department.


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