- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

D.C. Council members said yesterday they will further investigate a report on the more than $500,000 in questionable bonuses given last year and should attempt to recoup the money from those who received it in violation of city regulations.

“If there [were] some rules violated, we’d have to get our money back,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. “If it was discretionary and a matter of judgment, that’s different.”

A report released late last week by D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols showed nearly 30 senior city officials were inappropriately given $525,846 in cash bonuses during the final days of Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ administration.

The report states the bonuses were authorized by top officials but not submitted, reviewed or processed under proper personnel procedures. It also states many of the bonuses circumvented limits set by city regulations because they were given in two separate payments for two separate years.

Some of the bonuses also were given without an employee evaluation or were based on a self-evaluation, according to the report.

Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the government operations committee, said the District should seek restitution on bonuses that violated city laws and said she plans to hold a hearing on the report findings.

“If the law has been broken, we will have to seek rectification from those who benefited,” she said.

Despite finding that thousands of dollars in bonuses were given without following procedures, the report called for recovering only $15,600 from former City Administrator Robert C. Bobb, who received the money 30 days after he left office last year to run for school board president.

Miss Nichols said the District’s chief financial officer and attorney general should “promptly initiate” efforts to recover the money from Mr. Bobb, who did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

“The auditor could not find any provision in District law which authorized the payment of a performance-incentive award to an individual no longer employed by the District government,” the report states.

Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, said the administration has “referred the [report’s] information to the attorney general” but that no final determination on seeking restitution has been made.

“They’re looking at the best course of action as a whole,” Miss Iverson said.

The Fenty administration suspended the bonus program Aug. 31 and is now revising the District’s personnel regulations. Mr. Fenty took office in January after Mr. Williams, a Democrat, did not run for re-election.

Michael Rupert, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Human Resources, said the agency is examining possible alternatives to awarding cash bonuses.

For example, some cities use time off or public acknowledgment as performance incentives in lieu of cash awards.

Mr. Barry, a former D.C. mayor, said he supports Mr. Fenty’s work to reform the District’s personnel policies and blamed the bloated bonuses on a “broken system,” not on the employees who received them.

Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat and a member of Mrs. Schwartz’s committee, said he had requested a copy of the auditor’s analysis and plans to discuss it with her.

“Any action deemed [appropriate] by the committee, I’m going to support,” he said. “Those costs can add up to being a lot to the city, and we’ve got to ensure that they’re done the right way.”

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