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Will E. Barrett Prettyman Be a Good Inspector General?
January 8, 1998




Dorothy Brizill
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The following testimony was given to the City Council's Committee of the Whole in a public hearing on the nomination of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., to be Inspector General.

Good afternoon, Chairman Cropp and members of the Council. I am Dorothy Brizill, and I am testifying today for DCWatch, a good government organization that runs an informational web site on DC government affairs. I am also the convenor of the newly formed DC Citizens Reform Coalition, a group of civic and community leaders who are calling for the creation of an independent commission to investigate allegations of mismanagement, malfeasance, and corruption in the Metropolitan Police Department. I am not testifying today for the Citizens Reform Coalition, because we have not had an opportunity to meet on this matter.

Before I comment on Mr. Prettyman's nomination, I must comment on this hearing itself. Today, the City Council has again scheduled a confirmation hearing that is purely pro forma, a sham, at which citizens know that their testimony will not have the slightest effect on the Council's actions. Mr. Prettyman's confirmation by this Council is a foregone conclusion, as shown by three facts: this hearing was scheduled without adequate public notice; the Council never even bothered to make Mr. Prettyman's résumé and nomination materials available to the public in the Legislative Services office; and late yesterday afternoon the legislative session to confirm Mr. Prettyman was scheduled to follow this hearing immediately. As I have said before, if Councilmembers still wonder why most citizens of the District seem to care so little whether basic governmental decisions are made by elected officials or by the unelected Control Board, one major reason is that we know that our elected Councilmembers are no more responsive to us than the members of the federally appointed Control Board.

Second, I would like to comment on the position of Inspector General. When Congress created the DC Financial Responsibility and Management Reform Authority in 1995, it also created two pillars of reform within the District government itself. The position of Chief Financial Officer was created to ensure honest budgets and accurate financial reporting, at a minimum, and that position, held by Anthony Williams, has largely proven to be successful. In the 1995 legislation, the position of Inspector General was given a greater degree of independence to investigate and root out mismanagement and corruption within the government and oversee the annual audit of the District government. That position, unfortunately, has not operated successfully. After a very long delay, Mayor Barry finally nominated an Inspector General who, to say the least, lacked initiative and investigative experience. When the Control Board finally fired the first nominee for her inaction in office, the Mayor waited several months before nominating a replacement — a former Internal Revenue Service investigator who lacked auditing experience — whom he knew the Control Board would refuse to confirm.

The Inspector General position is not just another government job; it is vitally important and essential if we have any intention of reforming the District government and of restoring true home rule. Now, with the nomination and foreordained confirmation of Mr. E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., we are once again postponing the time when this position will be filled with a qualified permanent appointee, and the effort to root out corruption and mismanagement from within the District's government has again been thwarted.

Third, I would like briefly to address the issue of the procedure by which Mr. Prettyman was nominated to this position. The 1995 Congressional legislation establishing the Control Board specified that the Inspector General would be appointed by the Mayor. While that may be the gloss painted over the facts here, the truth is that Mr. Prettyman has been interviewed and selected by the secretive, extralegal body known as the Memorandum of Understanding partners. The selection process raises a serious concern about whether Mr. Prettyman possesses the independence that an Inspector General should and must have — especially in those situations when he must investigate members of the Memorandum of Understanding partners.

Fourth, I must comment on Mr. Prettyman's qualifications for the office. There is no controversy on that matter. Mr. Prettyman and I are in full agreement. As he said last week at the press conference announcing his appointment, "I do not think I am qualified to be the long-term Inspector General of the entire D.C. government." However, we probably disagree on the qualifications that are necessary to perform the job well. Mr. Prettyman is an honorable man, a talented man, and one with a distinguished legal career. I also do not think that an Inspector General must be a certified public accountant or an investigator. Those are skills that can easily be supplied by the office's staff.

However, the position has been functionally vacant for the past three years. We don't need another Inspector General who has only a limited desire to make the position work, or another Inspector General who needs on-the-job training about how the DC government works. We need a junkyard dog with a nose for the hunt, and one who knows the woods. The Inspector General must demonstrate a compelling desire to root out governmental corruption and mismanagement, a deep understanding and intimate knowledge of the operations of the District government, a single-minded dedication to the Inspector General's job, and a fierce independence. So far, Mr. Prettyman has not shown those qualifications.

At his press conference, Mr. Prettyman displayed some doubt about whether there was even a real problem of corruption in the police department, or whether there was simply a public relations problem and a need to pump up public confidence in the department. Such a statement does not show a compelling desire to root out corruption. Mr. Prettyman said essentially that he didn't know anything about the Metropolitan Police Department except what he had read in the newspapers, which doesn't show either a deep understanding or intimate knowledge of the problem. He has indicated a willingness to devote only six months to this task — a full year if absolutely necessary. And he has said that, while he will take a leave of absence from his law firm of Hogan and Hartson, he will continue to work on some open cases that he has there. This does not show total dedication to the task.

And, possibly most importantly, Mr. Prettyman has not shown that he will be fiercely independent in the position of Inspector General. Quite to the contrary. Mr. Prettyman will have a senior deputy, whom he envisions as handling all the tasks in the Inspector General's office except the investigation of the police department. But he has already stated that that deputy will be interviewed by, approved by, and appointed by the Memorandum of Understanding partners. To me, this indicates that Mr. Prettyman sees himself not as independent, but as subordinate to and reporting to the Memorandum of Understanding partners.

Finally, let me be very specific about my concerns about how the Inspector General's office will operate under Mr. Prettyman. Late last night, through an anonymous source, I received a copy of the seven-page letter that is appended to this testimony. It is labeled, "Personal and Confidential," dated July 17, 1987, and written by Mr. Robert E. Deso of the law firm of Deso, Greenberg & Thomas to the then United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Joseph DiGenova. This letter begins:

Dear Mr. DiGenova:

I am writing to you at the request of certain employees of the Metropolitan Police Department who have brought to my attention allegations of misconduct and possible criminal violations by officials of the Metropolitan Police Department, possibly including the Chief of Police. The allegations pertain to irregularities in the MPD drug testing procedures, and may involve other areas of the operations of the Police and Fire Clinic. The employees . . . have already been subject to harassment for having reported certain irregularities in the drug testing program through MPD channels. Also, their concern is heightened by the fact that members of the MPD Internal Affairs Division are directly implicated in some of the incidents of misconduct.

In this letter, Mr. Deso recounts in great detail allegations by police officers and civilian police department employees that there were "gross misconduct and possible criminal violations in the manner in which the drug testing program at the Clinic has been and is being administered." These employees allege that a urine sample provided by then Captain Robert C. White, who was then Commander of the Narcotics Branch of the Morals Division, tested positive for cannabis. They further allege that several highly irregular steps were taken to obtain a different urine sample that had possibly been provided by another officer, to submit that sample to a private testing laboratory as Captain White's, and that this sample tested negative for drugs. They allege that at that time there was "a systematic effort to subvert the integrity of the drug testing procedures at the Police and Fire Clinic and to manipulate the procedures so that desired results can be obtained." Further, these employees allege that after the police officer submitted complaints about these matters to the Assistant Branch Commander of the General Investigations Branch of the Internal Affairs Division of the Metropolitan Police Department, then Lt. Sonya Proctor, he was ordered by his commanding officer "not to discuss his complaints with anyone."

It is my understanding that neither the Internal Affairs Division nor the U.S. Attorney's office ever conducted a thorough investigation of these allegations of criminal misconduct or even interviewed the officer and civilian employee who made them. I cannot independently testify that these allegations are true — but I can say that they were worth investigating.

It is even more important that these charges be investigated today, because the Memorandum of Understanding partners have appointed Sonya Proctor as the Interim Chief of Police. And last week, with the concurrence of the Memorandum of Understanding partners, Chief Proctor appointed Robert C. White, who had previously retired from the department, as her second in command, Assistant Chief of Police in charge of the Patrol Services Bureau.

Mr. Prettyman, can you investigate these allegations against two individuals who are now the two top officials in the Metropolitan Police Department, and can you investigate what appears to be the complete failure of the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate credible allegations of criminal misconduct by police officials? Can you challenge the Memorandum of Understanding partners? And can you conduct an investigation openly and publicly, so that the citizens of the District of Columbia can have confidence in the fairness, thoroughness, and independence of your investigation? Or will you pull a veil of secrecy over your investigation, as secrecy has so often been used in the past to mask misconduct, even criminal misconduct, from the public's view?

We, the citizens of the District of Columbia, will be watching you.

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