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Archive for May, 2010

One would think that the DC government’s earshot proximity to the Feds would provide teachable moments and prevent the City from repeating Big Papa’s blunders.

In the late 80’s, Big Papa (the federal government) put United States taxpayers in an uproar when it paid $600 apiece for toilet seat covers. On January 1, 1990, The Times Magazine reported,

the pentagon procurement officers gave a new meaning to the term royal flush. They paid a vendor $600 apiece for airplane toilet-seat covers that should have cost about $25. Other examples of military largesse: a $7,622 coffee machine, a $400 hammer and a $659.53 ashtray.”

Now, fast-forward to the Council’s hearing on April 15, 2010 when it was disclosed that the DC government paid $48,000 for an $8,000 survey. That’s approximately a 600 percent price mark-up!  Here’s the web the Council unraveled:

Contractor A hired by DC government subcontracted to contractor B who sub, subcontracted to contractor C, who actually conducted the work Contractor A needed. Sub, subcontractor C was paid $8,000 by subcontractor B for survey work. Subcontractor B, in turn invoiced Contractor A for $48,000 for sub, subcontractor Cs survey, which cost subcontractor B only $8,000. Contractor A, invoiced the City $48,000 for the $8,000 survey and, you guessed it, the government of the District of Columbia paid it.

I know this sounds concocted and my brief rundown doesn’t give details, therefore, I’ve provided links to the Hill Rag and Washington City Paper, for full news coverage of this government approved pillage.  

Also, sub, subcontractor C must have watched the Council hearing and is now peeved-off. He told the Hill Rag that Contractors A and B exploited him and DC taxpayers, and he’s ready to testify against them.

Yes, this math is fuzzier than what President Bush had trouble comprehending.  And, to obfuscate the equation even more, players (A and B), excluding dissed C, are friends of the Mayor. 

Almost 30 years after one of the loudest blunders to awaken taxpayers out of their suspended complacency, one would assume the Mayor would not emulate Big Papa’s flush that was heard across the nation.

I guess this 80’s teachable moment wasn’t included in the Mayor’s grade school lesson.

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Contractor A –  Banneker Ventures  /  Subcontractor B –  Liberty Engineering & Design (LEAD)  / Sub, subcontactor C   –  Currie & Associates

(To watch the entire Council hearing, click on the link below, scroll down to 4/15/2010, PUBLIC HEARING, COMMITTEE ON LIBRARIES, PARKS & RECREATION, Harry Thomas Jr., Chairperson and click on “view meeting.”  Here’s the link.)

Pam Johnson; 4/20/10

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Last week on Fox 5 Morning News, Mayor Fenty kicked off the perennial mirage that voters have to endure every four years. During the campaign season politicians are known to bend the truth where fiction becomes fact and reality morphs into fallacies.

Within 58 seconds on Fox 5, Fenty painted the illusion that the City Council’s actions, not Chancellor Rhee’s, caused 266 teachers to lose their jobs. He repeated over and over again (a total of five times within an eight minute interview) that the Council eliminated $20 million from the budget, thereby forcing Chancellor Rhee to layoff 266 teachers in the Fall of 2009.

Ironically, back in October 2009,  during a Council hearing, Chancellor Rhee acknowledged that she defied Council’s orders by not cutting the summer school’s budget, thereby creating a deficit. Fox5TV.com reported,

“After speaking with the chief financial officer for the schools, it was revealed Rhee virtually created the budget shortfall by ignoring the council directive to cut $9 million from the summer school program. It’s a decision that created a budget gap which then set the stage for mass firings. What made matters worse, it became clear Rhee was aware of the pending budget issues and still hired an unprecedented 900 new teachers. Council members and teachers allege that it was all part of a bigger plan to clean house and then put the blame on the council.”

Therefore, based on “Just the Facts, not Campaign Fiction,” Mayor Fenty gets a “Gong Show” gong for his inaccurate rendition of Chancellor Rhee’s 2009 mass firings of DC teachers.

Pam Johnson; 4/20/10

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How can DCPS’ budget be sacrosanct to an elected—independent–governing body that is duty-bound to provide oversight of the taxpayers’ coffer?

The term sacrosanct should not be referred to when dealing with the management of government affairs, because oversight immunity should never be granted to any public policies, agencies, directors and, most importantly, government budgets.

Council member Graham suggesting the tacit inference that DCPS’ budget is untouchable justifies why the council needs to exercise its authority and methodically scrutinize DCPS’ FY11 budget.

Even the divine scriptures are open for  interpretation.

Peter Nash; 5/25/10

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Last week Council member Phil Mendelson outed the Chief of Fire and EMS, Dennis Rubin, for his negligence in managing the department’s overtime budget. During a live council hearing on OCTV-13, Mendelson named Chief Rubin’s players in what he called an “orgy of opportunity” for their excessive indulgence of overtime pay.

Mendelson stated that in FY09, under Chief Rubin’s leadership, 101 individuals pocketed a minimum of $20,000 in overtime pay. He went on to name several employees who rack-up $76,000 to $106,000 in overtime pay.

Chief Rubin proclaimed that he wasn’t proud of his department’s overtime frenzy, but apologetically professed that it will continue until the hiring freeze on 176 vacancies is removed. If hiring more employees is the solution, then why wasn’t it proposed in Mayor Fenty’s FY11 Budget and Financial Plan?

The Fire and EMS FY11 budget seeks the council’s approval for millions of dollars to increase salaries, but nothing to alleviate overtime spending pressures. (Watch video #2), where Mayor Fenty solicits the council for $13 million to adjust salaries at the Fire and EMS Department.)

How is it fiscally responsible for Chief Rubin to acknowledge waste, and not recommend measures to correct the problem?

Why didn’t the chief consider revisiting the Fire Cadet Program, which was placed on hiatus in 2009? This program provided D.C.’s disadvantaged youth with Fire and EMS training and a nominal stipend of $10.00 per hour.

Although cadets will not have the skill set of professional Fire and EMS employees, one can speculate that there would be occasions where their assistance could be employed to lessen the overtime, financial burden on taxpayers. The FY08 and FY09 top 25 overtime earners individually racked-up $37, 970.00 to $106,993.00 just in overtime pay.

When you do the math, it’s logical and fiscally sound to include cadets at $10 an hour in the overtime equation to reduce the pork. If Chief Rubin believes the cadet program isn’t a viable option, then he should hire more Fire and EMS employees.

Last month, during the FY11 budget hearing, Mayor Fenty didn’t request funding to hire additional full-time, fire and EMS employees. Paradoxically, he did solicit the council’s approval for $13 million to adjust salaries for Fire and EMS employees (see video #2).

Go figure!

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To get the gist of the story, check-out the following snippets from city council hearings: Video #1 – Council member Mendelson questions Fire and EMS Chief about the exorbitant overtime pay. Video #2 – Mayor Fenty’s requests for a $13 million increase for Fire and EMS employees. Video #3 – A Fire and EMS employee petitions the council for Chief Rubin to be relieved of his duties. In addition, to review the list of the top 25 overtime earners and Mendelson’s letter to the CFO, Natwar Ghandi, requesting a criminal investigation of Chief Rubin’s mismanagement of government funds, read ABC 7 News’ article, “Mendelson Blast Fire & EMS...”

Pam Johnson

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