- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has reversed himself and asked the city's inspector general to investigate contracting and procurement at the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department under Chief Ronnie Few, who this week was accused by a Georgia grand jury of financial mismanagement and misconduct when he was chief of the Richmond County fire department.
In a preliminary report released Tuesday, a Richmond County grand jury accused Chief Few of creating slush funds, obstructing justice and leaving the Augusta department in chaos.
Mr. Williams had said on Wednesday that there was no need to further investigate Chief Few, who resigned on May 21 and will leave his post July 31.
Tony Bullock, a spokesman for the Democratic mayor, said yesterday that Mr. Williams asked for the audit because he did not want to cause any problems for interim Chief Adrian Thompson or Chief Few's permanent successor. He said the mayor's decision was based partly on the findings of the grand jury.
"In light of the event in the last few days, the IG was asked to look at procurement and general financial operations of the department to make sure there were no issues or problems, with the eye toward moving forward, to make sure the interim and the new chief have the proper procurement policies and personnel policies and internal safeguards to prevent any problems," Mr. Bullock said.
D.C. Inspector General Charles C. Maddox will include the investigation into contracting and procurement in an ongoing investigation of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, according to Gloria Johnson, Mr. Maddox's chief of staff.
"The mayor has asked us to do a new audit," Ms. Johnson said. "We have an ongoing inspection of the fire department, which we expect to close in the fall."
In letters to Chief Thompson and Chief Procurement Officer Jacques Abadie III dated July 11, Mr. Maddox said he plans to conduct an audit of the department's procurement activities. Auditors are scheduled to meet with the fire department and procurement officials Tuesday.
The inspector general has been investigating Chief Few since December, when The Washington Times reported on ties between the chief and a fire department contractor.
Although Mr. Williams requested the investigation into the department's procurement and contracting, Mr. Bullock said the mayor does not believe the mismanagement detailed in the Richmond grand jury report could happen in the District.
"We do not think problems such as those disclosed in Augusta can occur in the District with the structure we have here with procurement and the independent [chief financial officer]."
Mr. Williams hired Chief Few two years ago, even as the Richmond County grand jury was investigating the chief. At the time, Mr. Williams said Chief Few was thoroughly investigated and that the grand jury charges were unfounded.
Augusta, Ga., Mayor Bob Young acknowledged this week that he wrote a positive letter of recommendation for Chief Few because he thought removing him from his job there would solve problems in the city's fire department.
Mr. Williams has defended Chief Few throughout his tenure, despite reports of contracting irregularities, inaccurate resumes from the chief and his top aides, cronyism and mismanagement.
D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said yesterday that the investigation is necessary. He also said Mr. Williams should sack Chief Few and deny him the three months' pay he will get in a severance package when he leaves at the end of this month.
"He's still on the staff. You have to fire the guy now. This guy does not deserve another penny from the District of Columbia," Mr. Fenty said.
Lt. Ray Sneed, president of the D.C. Fire Fighters Association Local 36, welcomed the financial investigation, saying there are too many similarities between Chief Few's conduct in Georgia and in the District.
"I always said, follow the money and you will find out where the problems are," Lt. Sneed said.
Ms. Johnson said the inspector general is also looking into the performance of the department's communications division, its response times, certification of paramedics and whether there is adequate staff on fire and ambulance units.

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