- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration has scaled back the practice of giving city employees cash bonuses and plans to redefine how, or whether, such awards will be given in the future.

“Right now, we can’t see any rhyme or reason to each individual agency’s performance bonus system,” City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said during a hearing Wednesday before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Government Operations.

Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the government operations committee, said she has tired of seeing “voluminous lists” of bonuses given out in some cases by agencies that have performed poorly or overspent their budgets.

She said yesterday that she was in full support of the Fenty administration’s attempt to revamp performance-incentive systems in city government.

“It’s become obvious to me over the years that bonuses are just being given out not necessarily for over and above the call-of-duty work,” Mrs. Schwartz said. “I have had concerns … and it’s obvious that [Mr. Tangherlini] feels the same.”

Mr. Tangherlini said an analysis of other city governments exposed some flaws in the District’s bonus system, which typically offers taxpayer dollars as cash awards for superior performance.

Mr. Tangherlini said a recent analysis showed that the District had “gone too far” in awarding bonuses. The survey, performed by the D.C. Department of Human Resources, analyzed best practices for awarding performance incentives across the country.

Some cities use time off or public acknowledgement as performance incentives for their employees.

Mr. Tangherlini said his office has frozen, with a very few exceptions, the bonus system for the fourth quarter of this year. Officials will meet with representatives from the D.C. Office of Human Resources and agency heads to develop new bonus plans, which could include alternatives such as pay raises.

“We start with one agency and go through the list,” Mr. Tangherlini said.

Most government employees can receive cash rewards, with several exceptions that include the mayor, council members and members of certain boards and commissions.

According to D.C. personnel policy, the taxpayer-funded monetary incentive awards usually cannot exceed $5,000 or 10 percent of an employee’s annual salary. They can be given for “a suggestion, an invention, a superior accomplishment, length of service, or other meritorious effort that contributes to the efficiency or economy or otherwise improves the operations of the District government.”

The administration of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams routinely awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses annually.

Officials awarded 565 bonus payments totaling $1.06 million during the first half of fiscal 2005, with nearly 400 employees in the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) receiving about $479,000 in extra money.

That prompted Mr. Fenty — then a council member with oversight of DHS — to call for a “full scrubbing” and inquiry into the bonuses given by the poorly performing department.

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