Thursday, October 13, 2005

The D.C. government employees tasked with providing care to the city’s poor have taken home nearly half of the more than $1 million in bonus money awarded by the District during the first half of fiscal 2005.

Nearly 400 employees in the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) received approximately $479,000 in extra money in their paychecks from Oct. 1, 2004, to March 31, 2005, according to D.C. Office of Personnel records.

Citywide, the D.C. government awarded 565 bonus payments for $1.06 million.

D.C. City Council member Adrian M. Fenty, chairman of the council’s Committee on Human Services, which oversees the Department of Human Services, yesterday said he’s going to conduct an inquiry of the department’s bonuses.

“The Department of Human Services is not one of our better-running agencies right now,” said Mr. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat and mayoral candidate. “We’re going to do a full scrubbing of this.”

Officials from the department yesterday said they were unable to respond to inquiries seeking comment for this story by deadline.

During the past year, however, department officials have noted several improvements, including a reduction in teen-pregnancy rates and a recent award from the federal government for management of the city’s food-stamp program.

But the department also has been criticized for the closure last year of a homeless shelter in Southwest. And a D.C. Auditor report in September 2004 sharply criticized the department’s management of subsidized child-care programs.

The report said a lack of oversight “fostered wasteful use of District and federal funds.”

Bonuses for 389 Human Services workers averaged about $1,200 each. By contrast, other agencies spent far less within their departments, yet often gave more generous individual bonuses to a handful of government executives.

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer, for example, distributed $71,757.70 to nine employees. Six received more than $8,000 each, including Robert Legrande, deputy chief technology officer. His $12,000 bonus ranked second-highest among all incentive awards.

Each of the top bonus recipients earned a salary of more than $120,000 per year.

The top bonus in the city went to an employee who no longer works for the District. Eric Price, former deputy for Planning and Economic Development, received a $13,239 bonus before his resignation in January 2005.

Only one other employee received a bonus topping $10,000. Stephen Green, director of development for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, who helped broker the District’s baseball stadium deal, received a bonus of $10,332.

The Human Services employees receiving bonuses were largely mid- or lower-level employees, including social-service representatives, program analysts and clerical assistants.

Randi Blank, spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel, said it’s up to each agency when to propose incentive awards for their employees. She said that decision depends on budget availability.

“Some agencies wait until the fourth quarter, and others do it earlier,” Miss Blank said. “DHS is one of our larger agencies, with more than 1,500 employees.”

Miss Blank also said city officials “make sure that the recommendation forms submitted are complete and the award is properly justified.”

Since 2001, the District has given more than $5 million in bonuses.

City employees can receive incentive awards for “a suggestion, an invention, a superior accomplishment, length of service or other meritorious effort,” according to the personnel manual.

According to city rules, incentive awards cannot exceed $5,000 or 10 percent of an employee’s annual salary. Any government employee can receive cash rewards — except the mayor, council members, members of certain boards and commissions, and courts and school employees.

Two other employees in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer have ranked among the top bonus recipients in the District so far in 2005.

Veronica Lipscombe, director of technical services for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, received $9,449. And Christina Fleps, attorney for the agency, received $9,712.

A top bonus recipient in another department was Robin Yeldell, director of operations for the Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, $8,697.

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