The D.C. Office of the Inspector General has begun an investigation into suspected residency fraud by several midlevel Fire Department managers, including one who works on the executive staff of Fire Chief Ronnie Few, say D.C. government sources.
The investigation was prompted by a letter that former training supervisor Lt. Frances Dudley-O’Neal sent to the office of the deputy mayor for public safety and justice last month; the letter named two quality-assurance evaluators, two emergency medical service (EMS) supervisors and a quality-assurance manager as non-D.C. residents. A hearing last year found Lt. Dudley-O’Neal was in violation of the city’s personnel statutes for living in Prince George’s County.
Also named was Chief Few’s director of research and development, Debra A. Kilpatrick. The letter is backed up by a deed in Miss Kilpatrick’s name to a house in Hyattsville, purchased in 1999. According to D.C. personnel regulations, service employees like Miss Kilpatrick are expected to maintain principal residences in the District.
In 1999, D.C. Fire Chief Donald Edwards was forced to resign after it was revealed he owned a home in Adelphi and rented an apartment in the District.
Gloria Johnson, spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment, but D.C. fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said the department had not been contacted about an investigation.
“We are not aware of any investigations regarding residency issues,” Mr. Etter said, adding that Chief Few personally attested to Miss Kilpatrick’s D.C. residency.
Lt. Dudley-O’Neal has steadfastly maintained her innocence, saying she owns a house in Prince George’s County but has produced documentation for a home in the District, a D.C. driver’s license, voter registration and utility bills for a D.C. address.
She claimed she was singled out for a widespread offense after a dispute with management over a promotion.
Lt. Dudley-O’Neal wrote a letter dated Aug. 1 to the office of Margaret Kellems, the deputy mayor for public safety and justice, asking for an investigation of “unfair treatment and retaliation” within the department.
On Aug. 16, she was notified in a letter signed by Chief Few that she was being investigated for a residency violation that occurred in 1998.
A fire department investigation and November hearing found her to be in violation.
Lt. Dudley-O’Neal filed an equal opportunity complaint on Dec. 12 and on Jan. 9 wrote another letter to the deputy mayor’s office claiming that residency fraud was widespread throughout the department, and that the residency requirement was selectively enforced based on favoritism.
“As long as you’re in that circle and you agree with them, they look out for you,” Lt. Dudley-O’Neal said. “But as soon as you buck them, they push you out.”
Mr. Etter said Lt. Dudley-O’Neal’s charges of retaliation had no grounds.
“This is not the case,” he said, but declined to discuss Lt. Dudley-O’Neal’s situation further because it was a personnel matter.
Lt. Dudley-O’Neal’s attorney, Philip Thompson, charged that the residency requirement was selectively enforced to remove someone the department saw as a troublemaker even as they ignored several violations of which they were aware.
“I think you will find this is a very pervasive problem in the District of Columbia,” he said. “They have taken my client and made her the whipping boy.”
Mr. Thompson said that before filing a lawsuit, he is waiting for the department to send final termination papers, which he expects within the next 30 days.