- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

A D.C. Department of Health official is asking an appeals court for her old job back in a lawsuit charging that a former top health administrator used a city employee as a chauffeur, hired friends and steered a contract to a former elected official.

Sherry Beth Adams, former administrator of the D.C. Emergency Health and Medical Services Administration, made the accusations in a whistleblower lawsuit against Dr. Michael Richardson, D.C. Department of Health Director James Buford and the D.C. government.

Miss Adams was removed from her position as administrator in March — a move she called a “banishment to the bureaucratic equivalent of Siberia,” according to court documents.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in May, says Miss Adams was retaliated against for protesting misuse of government resources.

A judge denied a motion in June by Miss Adams for an injunction restoring her to her old job. The U.S. Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case on May 4.

The lawsuit charges that Dr. Richardson, former deputy director for medical affairs in the city health department:

• Used an employee who was supposed to manage the city’s stockpile of emergency drugs as a personal chauffeur;

• Hired at least two friends who were unqualified for their jobs, displaying favoritism;

nSteered a $236,000 contract to former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt to provide consulting services on bioterrorism without competitive bidding, despite questions about the former mayor’s lack of experience in the field.

Miss Adams is employed by the department as director of clinical operations, but she says the position holds far less responsibility. She says the transfer was prompted by questions she raised about hiring practices and contract awards within the agency.

D.C. officials are denying the accusations, saying Miss Adams deserved the transfer and, according to court documents, is “using the legal process to influence personal and professional injury” on Dr. Richardson.

Lawyers representing the defendants said Miss Adams deserved to be transferred because she lacked administrative skills and displayed open hostility to Dr. Richardson, who resigned from the department in October, and Mr. Buford.

“Plaintiff’s day-to-day performance of her job was hampered by her open hostility to Dr. Richardson, her open hostility of those who refused to join her in being critical of Dr. Richardson … and her inadequate administrative skills,” attorneys for the defendants stated in a legal brief.

The defense also denied the charges that Dr. Richardson utilized an employee as a chauffeur and that he employed improper hiring and contracting practices, according to legal documents.

Defense attorneys also accused Miss Adams of operating the Emergency Health and Medical Services Administration as a “fiefdom for serving her personal comfort.” Court papers said she “demonstrated inability to respond in a timely and effective manner to emergency situations.”

But court documents also show that Miss Adams received commendations for her performance from former D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Ivan Walks. Miss Adams played a prominent role in coordinating the city’s responses during the 2001 anthrax attacks. Mayor Anthony A. Williams called her “a heroine” in a newsletter.

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