- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2003

The D.C. government executives who advise Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other high-level officials on which employees deserve bonuses are more likely than regular government workers to receive extra money in their paychecks.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that five of the 10 members on the D.C. Incentive Awards Committee each received cash bonuses of thousands of dollars this summer after city officials lifted a freeze on giving monetary awards.

By contrast, less than 3 percent of about 20,000 D.C. workers eligible for cash rewards if they meet performance standards received bonus money this summer, according to Office of Personnel officials. The D.C. government gave 453 cash bonuses this year.

The disparity has sparked calls by two D.C. Council members for a review into how the District distributes cash awards. Metropolitan Police Department union leaders have complained that rank-and-file members have not received bonuses in at least three years.

The bonus policy came under scrutiny earlier this month after The Washington Times reported the D.C. government has handed out more than $3.9 million in incentive awards since 2001, including more than $740,000 this summer.

The bonuses were being distributed even as city officials renewed calls for more federal funding and congressional approval for a proposed tax on commuters.

D.C. government employees can receive cash awards “for overall performance that exceeds expectations, as evidenced by a current annual performance evaluation,” according to the District’s personnel manual.

Human resources officials in comparably sized Baltimore and in the country’s five most populated cities said they do not award city executives large bonuses, though employees in Philadelphia can earn as much as $2,000 for suggestions or innovations that result in savings.

Among those on the D.C. Incentive Awards Committee who received bonuses this summer were Leslie Hotaling, Craig Galloway, Jo Ellen Gray, William Howland and El Chino Martin.

Miss Hotaling makes $132,395 a year as director of the Department of Public Works and received $6,620 in extra pay.

Mr. Galloway, an executive in the Office of Operations, makes $72,331 a year and received an extra $2,000. Mr. Howland, who also works in the Office of Operations, earns $98,166 a year and received an extra $2,500.

Miss Gray, associate director of the Office of Personnel, earns $104,950 a year and received an extra $3,149. Mr. Martin, chief of staff of the Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, earns $114,885 and received $5,589 extra.

None of the committee members voted to send bonus payments to themselves, according to personnel officials.

“Generally, the committee members recuse themselves from making awards within their own agencies, though they can contribute to the discussion,” said Randi Blank, spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel.

The awards committee, which is appointed by Mr. Williams, the city administrator and deputy mayors, reviews all monetary awards exceeding $2,000 for eligible employees except agency heads, according to D.C. personnel regulations.

A committee appointed by Mr. Williams — made up of the mayor’s chief of staff, the city administrator, the director of personnel and deputy mayors — reviews awards to agency heads. It also reviews recommendations from the incentive awards panel.

City officials say the system increases oversight and marks a significant improvement over how awards were distributed and tracked before 2001.

D.C. officials say cash awards now require supporting documentation to ensure that employees deserve the extra money. Prior to 2001, agency directors distributed the bonuses with little oversight, officials said.

City officials also say the program is a progressive way to keep employees motivated, and cite examples of merit-based awards in private industry and the federal government.

Miss Blank said that after lifting a nine-month budget freeze on monetary awards this summer, the District capped awards to high-level executives at 5 percent of their total salaries, ending the practice of giving bonuses of as much as $10,000.

In previous years, some D.C. government executives and political appointees had received cash bonuses of more than $10,000 in addition to their salaries, according to records.

Despite the reforms, some officials fault the D.C. government with giving too much influence — and bonus money — to the senior executives, department heads and political appointees.

“It’s ridiculous to have people on a bonus review panel getting bonuses themselves,” said D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. “Even if they recuse themselves, it doesn’t matter. People know who sits on the committee. It seems like a conflict of interest to me.”

Mr. Fenty also called for more representation among regular government employees on the awards committee. According to D.C. payroll records, seven members on the committee earn annual salaries of more than $100,000, and two make more than $90,000.

“There needs to be a better cross-section of people awarding bonuses,” Mr. Fenty said. “And there needs to be a better cross-section of people getting bonuses. We need to think from the bottom up.”

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, voiced concerns about the large bonuses paid to department heads and high-salaried officials.

The disparity is evident in the city’s police department, the council members say. Union leaders agree, saying high-level administrators take home thousands in extra pay, while rank-and-file officers rarely receive bonuses.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, for example, received two bonuses since 2001 totaling $21,000. He was one of only four members from the police department to have received a cash bonus since 2001, according to Office of Personnel records.

Incentive awards committee member Nola Joyce, senior executive director of organization development for the police department, received a bonus of $9,383 last year. She earns $121,067 a year. She was not serving on the awards committee when she received the bonus.

“I cannot remember the last time a regular officer ever got a bonus,” said Sgt. Gregory Greene, acting chairman of the Labor Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police. “How they give out bonuses goes to the heart of the morale issue. Morale isn’t good. It’s not hard to see why, when all these same managers who get bonuses give them out, too. But all the people who are making the arrests don’t get anything.”

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