- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has picked Kate Jesberg to head the Department of Human Services, just two weeks after the mayor’s initial choice resigned because of a question about whether her husband’s employment in the agency violated city laws against nepotism.

Mrs. Jesberg has worked in the D.C. government since 1982. She serves as the administrator of DHS’ Income Maintenance Administration, which determines the eligibility of applicants and recertifies the eligibility of recipients for federally and locally funded assistance programs.

“I think Kate Jesberg is a good choice for the department at this time,” said D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat.

Mr. Fenty is chairman of the council’s Committee on Human Services, which has oversight of Mrs. Jesberg’s department. “She runs one of the few divisions of DHS that has made progress,” he said.

Mrs. Jesberg was a winner of a 2004 Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Award for Distinguished D.C. Government Employees. She was rewarded for her work in reforming the District’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families welfare program.

D.C. officials say privately that Mrs. Jesberg was the initial choice to lead the agency after the resignation of Yvonne D. Gilchrist. Her resignation became effective March 3.

However, there were concerns because Mrs. Jesberg’s husband, John Dodge, served as the agency’s general counsel.

Since October, general counsels technically are not employed by city agencies but by the D.C. Attorney General’s Office. Nevertheless, D.C. Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti reassigned Mr. Dodge to the civil litigation division within the attorney general’s office.

“There are no laws that prohibit the two of them from working at the same agency, but the attorney general didn’t want anything to appear improper,” said Traci Hughes, a spokeswoman for Mr. Spagnoletti.

Mr. Fenty said that reassigning Mr. Dodge showed that DHS was “committed to taking the steps necessary” to avoid any problems with the nomination.

“I’m glad they are looking at this on the front end,” he said.

Mr. Fenty was critical of Vanessa Chappell-Lee’s nomination, saying she had been part of an ineffective management team before she was promoted to lead the agency.

Four days after Mrs. Chappell-Lee was named interim director, Mr. Fenty pressed the interim agency head at a human services committee oversight hearing about why her husband was rehired to work in an agency within the department.

Martin W. Lee had been fired by Mrs. Gilchrist in 2005. Mrs. Chappell-Lee immediately resigned the position as interim director.

DHS administers social service programs and services that primarily benefit low-income D.C. residents. The major programs and services include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Medicaid/Healthy Families. The department has about 1,600 employees and a budget of about $400 million.

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