Supplement to The Death and Life of Jane Jacobs
themail, May 3, 2006
What’s a Little White Lie Among Friends?
Jonetta Rose Barras, firstname.lastname@example.org
When Marion Barry was mayor, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR)
was the dumping ground for his political operatives. Kimberley Flowers,
the agency’s new director, is following that tradition -- except her
cronies are from Baltimore, MD.
Speaking last month before the Committee on Education, Libraries and
Recreation, Deborrah Jackson, the representative for the American
Federation of Government Employees Local 2741 and a DPR employee,
accused Flowers of mismanaging the $51 million agency. Jackson said
Flowers, on the job for eleven months, has never held a system-wide
meeting with the agency’s more than five hundred employees; has
understaffed recreation centers; and has manipulated District laws to
hire her friends.
Ironically, even Barry agreed on the latter: “It’s clear . . .
they are using techniques to get around the city’s personnel laws.”
“I followed the process as I was told,” Flowers said in a
telephone interview with me. If that’s true, then something’s wrong.
In June 2005, soon after Flowers arrived, she created three new
senior-level positions: Deputy Director for Recreation Programs,
Director of Partnerships and Program Development, and Evaluation
Manager. She filled those jobs with people from Baltimore who worked for
her when she was the director of that city’s recreation department.
Roslyn Joy Johnson became deputy director with a $105,855 salary;
Kakwete Sibetta became partnership director with a nearly $67,000
salary; and Tawanna Kane became program development and evaluation
manager with a $71,000 salary. Two others — Melissa Degrafenreid and
Marsha Jones — were hired as assistants. Everyone except Kane came
within four months of Flowers’ arrival.
At least one of those individuals, Johnson, deliberately inflated her
employment and compensation history to secure her position, according to
the resume she submitted to the Office of Personnel (OP) and admissions
made by her during interviews with me.
One entry on the resume indicates that Johnson worked in 1996 as
Interim Women’s Coordinator at Woodland Job Corps in Maryland. The job
was only for the summer, not a full year. (The Office of Personnel uses
the length of time on a job as one factor to evaluate an applicant’s
qualifications). Johnson admitted in an interview with me that at least
three entries on the resume submitted to OP were exaggerated; these were
all part-time or weekend positions, not full-time, as her resume
Johnson also indicated on her resume her salary at Studyworks Inc., a
test preparation company, was $101,000. (OP also uses salary history in
determining the pay grade for an employee.) But this week, during an
interview with me in which she was asked about her compensation at
Studyworks, Inc., Johnson admitted she was paid a base salary of
In subsequent interviews, Flowers offered three different defenses of
her friend. First she said, “I know there were opportunities for her
to earned bonuses.” But a spokesperson for Studyworks, Inc., said
$89,300 was the maximum Johnson earned while employed with the company
from 1998 to January 2003. Then Flowers suggested I was holding an
incorrect resume. However, the OP spokesperson, Randi Blank, confirmed
the resume sent to me was the resume used to determined Johnson’s
eligibility. Finally, Flowers enlisted the aid of a spokesperson: “I
have always tried to bring the best qualified people into this agency,
regardless of their background. I will look into any questions raised
about their qualifications,” Flowers said through the spokesperson.
Reached at his office, City Administrator Robert Bobb said,
“Falsifying a resume is cause for immediate termination, especially if
the resume is used to enhance earning potential.”
Flowers didn’t just hire her friends; she upgraded their job titles
from those they held in Baltimore and increased their salaries by
thousands of dollars. In Baltimore, Johnson earned $82,100; Sibetta
earned $50,500 and Kane earned $58,700, according to a spokesperson for
Baltimore’s recreation department. Neither Johnson nor Sibetta nor
Kane lives in the District.
So how was Flowers able to bring in her crew and increase their
salaries so dramatically? In those infamous words spoken by the
government’s biggest scofflaw, Suzanne Peck (the District’s Chief
Technology Officer), Flowers exploited the hell out of the gray areas.
First she hired Johnson and the others as temporary employees. A
cornucopia of baskets is used to lift individuals into the government:
fellowships, internships, and term appointments, which are not to be
confused with temporary or TAPER. “It’s not so clear to me what the
differences are,” says Oscar Rodriguez, head of the Center for
Innovation and Reform, which recently completed a review of the OP’s
management and DC. personnel codes. Rodriguez describes them as “four
tomes two feet wide.” The center has proposed improvements.
But this much is clear: permanent jobs must be awarded in an open
competition. Managers frequently evade this requirement by advertising
only in their agency — keeping the information among the favored few.
That’s what Flowers did. OP was a conspirator in Flowers’ effort to
circumvent the law. Shawniqua Ottley, the sole person in DPR’s office
of human resources, also aided and abetted. On August 22, 2005, not long
after Flowers joined the agency, she hired Johnson in a temporary status
but gave her the title she currently holds. The permanent position was
posted from August 29, 2005, through Sept. 23, 2005, according to
This became Flowers’ template: She brought in Sibetta on Oct. 3,
2005, then advertised the job from October 17 through October 21, 2005.
Kane joined the agency on March 6, 2006; the announcement for her job
ran from March 22, 2006, through March 30, 2006. The other two
individuals, Degrafenreid and Jones, were hired as term appointees;
their jobs did not have to be competed.
The searches for the permanent positions were only conducted
agency-wide. This meant that only employees from the DPR could apply,
drastically reducing the pool of qualified candidates. OP also permitted
Flowers to select by name the individuals she wanted to hire; naturally
they were the persons already in the job — her folks from Baltimore.
Ottley offered double protection for her director’s plan. The human
resource specialist admitted during an interview with me that she did
not make any effort to inform the DPR workforce directly through written
notification that three senior-level positions were available and that
they could apply. Further, there was no employee newsletter. How likely
was it that there were would be additional applications for the jobs
other than those already holding the positions? Not likely.
This discriminatory process doesn’t bother Flowers’ supervisor,
Brenda Donald Walker, deputy mayor for children, youth, families, and
elders. "I’m satisfied," says Walker, adding this damaging
chronology regarding Johnson’s selection: “[Johnson] was someone
[Flowers] identified; she submitted her name for the job, personnel
ranked [Johnson] as qualified. She brought her on and then advertised
the position agency-wide.” Not surprisingly, Johnson was the sole
applicant for her position. Sibetta was also the only applicant,
according to Blank. Thus far, Kane is the sole applicant for her
Flowers’ crew is now nicely ensconced. Meanwhile, the OP continues
to permit managers to circumvent the intent and spirit of the law. And
Ottley, the DPR human resource specialist? Well, her service won her an
upgrade to acting human resources director, with a $66,000 a year
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?