- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

Several of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Cabinet-level appointments and nominees have been singled out in former jobs for such problems as mismanagement, while others have connections to the careers of Mr. Fenty and his city administrator.

Those connections and the past missteps of some of the nominees have resulted in criticism of the mayor’s early administration resembling the D.C. government of years past.

“I was frankly surprised and amazed at some of the personnel appointments Mr. Fenty has made,” said Dorothy Brizill, executive director of the D.C. government watchdog group, D.C. Watch. “A number of the people he is hiring do not have a stellar record or the requisite new energy, new ideas and clean track record Mr. Fenty is espousing as part of his administration.”

At least five selections have ties to the former council member’s Ward 4 constituent base, including acting Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, the Metropolitan Police Department’s former 4th District commander, and Victor Reinoso, the former Ward 3 and Ward 4 representative on the Board of Education.

A handful of others have previously worked with City Administrator Dan Tangherlini, the former interim general manager of Metro and former director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. Mr. Fenty chose Emeka Moneme, Mr. Tangherlini’s former chief of staff at Metro, to head the transportation department.

“The fact is if you have people working in the city for a while you’re going to have those connections,” Mr. Tangherlini said.

Also among the selections were a few agency heads that have come under previous scrutiny.

Lisa Marie Morgan — Mr. Fenty’s interim pick to head the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) — served on a steering committee in 2004 that recommended DCRA hire a consultant to take a closer look at customer service.

In September 2004, Ms. Morgan started the consulting firm Simple Solutions, and her company won the $97,515 contract with DCRA the next July.

At the time, Mr. Fenty criticized the deal’s “coziness” in published reports and said residents felt it was “borderline corruption.”

But Mr. Tangherlini this week said the Fenty administration has extensively looked at the issue and determined that “there wasn’t any wrongdoing on the part of Lisa directly.”

“The bigger issue really was an appearance issue, and we’ll do everything in our power to avoid that appearance issue in the Fenty administration contract,” Mr. Tangherlini said.

DCRA officials said the council’s contracting committee examined the issue in 2005 and it was a “non-issue.”

“There was nothing illegal,” Ms. Morgan said. “It’s unfortunate that after seven years of service this is the issue that keeps coming up rather than why I’m chosen for these positions and the good work I’m going to do.”

The general counsel for the Office of Campaign Finance also advised the Office of the City Administrator in 2002 to “admonish” Ms. Morgan — who then worked as director of customer service operations in the city administrator’s office — for violating employee conduct regulations and managing a private account on company time.

Ms. Morgan will make $142,510 a year as head of DCRA.

Another Fenty appointment who has come under scrutiny is Brender L. Gregory, Mr. Fenty’s choice for director of the Office of Personnel. Miss Gregory had oversight of the Metropolitan Police Department’s fleet maintenance contract as the department’s director of business services from 2000 to 2004.

Two audits released during her tenure said that the department wasted more than $1 million by failing to properly manage a private contractor who repaired city police cars. The audits found both police mismanagement of the contract with the company — Serco Management Services Inc. — and overbilling by Serco.

Mr. Tangherlini said the problems actually occurred before Miss Gregory’s hiring. A D.C. inspector general’s audit said the overrun occurred during a contract period that ended in September 2000.

“Her job was mainly to clean up that mess,” Mr. Tangherlini said. “In that sense, the story is her ability to work with difficulties.”

The Washington Times reported in 2002 that Miss Gregory had been advised of the needed changes in overseeing the contract, but that the measures were not immediately implemented.

As head of the Office of Personnel, Miss Gregory is expected to help reform an agency often blamed for the slow performance and bloated bureaucracy of D.C. government at an annual salary of $155,000. She also will be in charge of managing a department with a roughly $14 million budget. Calls to Miss Gregory’s office for comment were not returned.

Other Fenty appointees that have had trouble in past positions include Uma Ahluwalia, interim director of the Child and Family Services Agency, who also was the agency’s interim director under former Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

She resigned in April 2005 as head of the Washington State Children’s Administration after the deaths of numerous children and a budget overrun of $12 million. Mrs. Ahluwalia will make $135,000 a year.

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