So Far, Councilmember Allen Sees No Illegality in Department of General Services Firings
by Larry Janezich
Councilmember Charles Allen held community office hours on Friday and told CHC: “I may disagree with the action taken” – referring to the firing of two DGS procurement officials – “but I did not hear anything that rose to the level of an illegal act.” He added the qualification, “based on what I’ve heard so far.” Allen said he had sat in on “some” of the closed door committee hearing on the firings and heard Chair Mary Cheh talk about it. Allen said that he could not discuss the details of what happened in the closed door proceedings.
In early December, Mary Cheh’s Transportation and Environment Committee – which oversees DGS – held a closed door hearing to investigate the legality of the firing of two DGS employees who say they were retaliated against after failing to award two multimillion dollar contracts to Fort Myer Construction, a major donor to Mayor Muriel Bowser. See CHC editorial here: http://bit.ly/2bqvKsi
Allen said that the committee will vote – probably in January – on releasing the documents and testimony for the closed hearing after staff redacts material that could jeopardize ongoing litigation.
That seems to leave open the question of whether the public will ever learn the Mayor’s office’s justification for the firings. DGS Chief Admiral Chris Weaver resigned rather than fire the two employees, a task that ultimately fell to City Administrator Rasheed Young,
Both individuals are seeking legal redress. Former DGS Associate Director Yink T. Alao has filed a $10 million whistleblower lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court. Former General Counsel Carlos M. Sandoval has filed an appeal of his firing with the District’s Office of Employee Appeals.
According to Cheh spokesperson Kelly Whittier, the committee will take two actions. First, after personnel matters are redacted, the proceedings of the committee will be made public. Second, the committee will issue a report containing recommendations, and legislation could come out of that. Both of these actions will go over into the next year.
DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Committee Chair Cheh introduced a bill on September 19 that would take contracting authority out of the hands of DGS and transfer it to a new office within the Office of Contracting and Procurement. That bill has been referred to the Committee of the Whole and it will continue over into the next legislative session in 2017. Whittier says it’s likely a hearing will be held on it next year.
Cheh’s committee held the closed door hearing on the Department of General Services Contracting and Personnel Management on Thursday, December 1. Following is a list of witnesses who were scheduled to appear before the committee: Barry Kreiswirth, Robert Schildkraut, Jeff Bonvechio, Camille Sabbakhan, Maia Estes, Ketan Gada, Nancy Hapeman, Ana Harvey, C. Vaughn Adams, Ron Ross, Mark Tuohey, Rashad Young, Chris Weaver, Greer Gillis, Leif Dormsjo.