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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Council lashes Fenty over "questionable" bonuses
By: BILL MYERS
Examiner Staff Writer
December 15, 2009
D.C. leaders reacted with outrage to news that the Fenty administration has continued to lavish awards on favored employees despite a law banning the practice.
Fenty has doled out nearly $15 million to select officials, including some $565,000 given out since October. The council passed a law this year forbidding the city to hand out any more cash perks after the start of fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1.
Council Chairman Vince Gray said the bonuses were "highly questionable given the depressed economy."
"The Council imposed its own prohibition for [fiscal 20]09 bonuses to send the message of the need to do without them in this fiscal climate when people are being laid off, services are being cut, and residents are making sacrifices," he wrote in an e-mail toThe Examiner.
More than one out of every 10 District residents is out of work, government statistics show. The Fenty administration has faced nine-digit budget gaps and has been slicing staff by the hundreds, claiming that it simply can't afford workers.
Councilman Kwame Brown, D-at large, called the bonuses "a true sign of poor leadership."
"We must do better," Brown wrote in an e-mail.
Most of the post-October bonuses were less than $3,000. But D.C. retirement board executive Eric Stanchfield was given nearly $22,000 last month. Finance office executive Abdi Mohamed Mohamed was given $10,000 in October.
October surprises? Some bonuses given to city workers after ban took effect
» Eric Stanchfield, retirement board, $21,997 on Nov. 27
» Abdi Mohamed Mohamed, finance office, $10,000 on Oct. 23
» Shirley Lanier, tax office, $5,000 on Oct. 30
» Aniema Udofa, finance and resource management office, $5,000 on Oct. 30
Stanchfield didn't respond to calls for comment. Finance office spokesman David Umansky insisted that The Examiner file a Freedom of Information Act request before he'd discuss Mohamed's bonus.
Most of the bonuses paid after October went to lawyers under Attorney General Peter Nickles.
He defended the payouts on Monday, saying that most of them were obligated under a union contract and that the personnel evaluations for the team were completed earlier this year -- for performance in 2008 -- but the payments weren't disbursed until after October.
That wasn't enough to assuage Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, who wrote letters to Nickles, as well as city Finance Officer Natwar Gandhi and City Administrator Neil Albert. She called the bonuses "troubling" and demanded an explanation within two weeks.
Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-at large, said the bonuses were "embarrassing."
"To see somebody who already has a big salary getting a fat bonus on top and then turning around and [firing] employees is a bad picture," he said.