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May 25, 2008


Dear Outraged:

Nikita Stewart has the latest Peter Nickles outrage story in Friday’s Washington Post ( Just in the past month, Nickles involved himself in distributing to city councilmembers free tickets to baseball games that the mayor had been hoarding for himself, and he took the lead to push the lucrative lottery contract that the mayor is supporting for his fraternity brothers and friends. Nickles is continuing to beat down the low morale of the Attorney General’s Office by running it with the same heavy hand and bull headedness that made him so unpopular with his colleagues at his former law firm of Covington and Burling. His latest innovations are a dress code under which lawyers are required to wear jackets at all time and a soon-to-be-instituted time clock that lawyers will be required to punch. But Stewart’s story is mainly about Nickles’ firing of eleven lawyers in the office, in his plan to “transform” the Attorney General’s office into a “first-rate law firm” with “strong, young, able stars.” Nickles claims that he fired those who are “not up to that star capacity,” but the case for that is thin. “Steven J. Anderson, president of the union that represents nine of the lawyers who were fired, said the union plans to challenge the terminations. He said he thinks all of the lawyers had received ‘satisfactory evaluations.’”

Nickles talks as though he has long-term plans to continue to demoralize the AG’s Office, but it is questionable whether he will be able to continue to act as AG — at least legally act as AG — for much longer. Mayor Fenty appointed Nickles as Attorney General in a temporary capacity on December 17, 2007, after Nickles’ continuing interference with the office forced out Linda Singer. Fenty can’t appoint Nickles to the position permanently because a requirement for the job is that the Attorney General be a resident of the city of Washington. However, mayoral acting appointments are valid for only one hundred eighty days. After that half year, acting appointments are no longer valid, and appointees can no longer exercise the authority of their offices, be paid, or accept pay. That means that in about a month Nickles can no longer legally act as Attorney General.

There are two problems with that, however. The first is that there are two versions of the DC Code, the Code as it is published and the Code as it is interpreted by Peter Nickles. Under Nickles’ version of the Code, he and the mayor aren’t bound by any laws they don’t want to follow. Nickles has already claimed that he’s not the “acting” Attorney General, but the “interim” Attorney General, and that the law limiting the term of acting appointments doesn’t apply to interim appointments. He’s also claimed that the law limiting acting appointments doesn’t apply to offices not mentioned in the Home Rule Charter, and that since the Charter established the Office of Corporation Counsel rather than the renamed Office of the Attorney General, the limitation doesn’t apply to him. These are phony arguments that rest on word games, of course, but they lead to the second problem: who will enforce the law against Nickles when Nickles’ term expires? The city council won’t confront Nickles and the mayor, and an ordinary citizen could probably not get standing in court to sue Nickles to force him to stand down. But if Nickles is determined to continue to fire more attorneys, that problem will be solved as soon as Nickles takes more job actions after his term has expired. Lawyers who are fired by Nickles when he has no legal authority to act as Attorney General will have the standing to sue to enforce the law in order to challenge their firings, and they will have the backing of their union. It will be an interesting battle.

Gary Imhoff


DC Parks Department Wasted Money
Jonetta Rose Barras,

An administrative assistant was allowed to sign off on more than one million dollars of invoices submitted by contractors who built recreation centers in the District of Columbia between 2002 and 2005. Serious internal control deficiencies “resulted in the payment of approximately $16 million in invoices, which were neither approved by a [Department of Parks and Recreation] authorized official nor sufficiently verified by the [Office of the Chief Financial Officer] prior to payment,” according to a scathing audit released last week by the Inspector General. Not surprisingly, the IG concluded that the government also may have improperly paid as much as $2.1 million to those contractors — Jair Lynch Consulting/Alpha Construction (JLC/A) and The Temple Group, Inc. (TTGI).

Readers of The Barras Report may remember reports that appeared there from 2004 through 2007 that detailed the shenanigans in the capital projects at the DPR. Those reports raised questions not only about the quality of the work being performed by the two contractors identified in the IG’s audit but also the nature of the contracts and the overall cost to District taxpayers.

The contracts with JLC/A and TTGI began during the Financial Control Board era. Initially they were seen as way to improve the deplorable conditions at recreation centers when the city had little or no funds for capital projects. They were touted as cost-effective and cost-efficient. But a monopoly is never efficient or effective; it frequently results in customers being overcharged for a shoddy product. That certainly was what happened between 2002 and 2007 in the DPR capital projects, according to the findings in the IG’s audit dated May 13, 2008. During this period, the agency spent $160 million on capital projects. Read more at in The Barras Report at,


A Coming Home Heating Oil Crisis
Jack McKay,

While all attention is focused on the rising prices of gasoline and diesel fuel, the price of home heating oil has quietly gone up just as much. Heating season is over, so people may not notice that heating oil, like diesel fuel, now costs over $4 a gallon here, compared to $2.75 a year ago. Natural gas, in contrast, is unchanged, and now costs less than half as much, per unit heat output, as oil. This promises to be a terrible crisis next winter, when low-income households discover that their already-burdensome heating costs have doubled.


DCPS School Reform: The Other Side of the Story
Candi Peterson,

The more I learn about the Fenty/Rhee administration, the more I detest their fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants method of governing. I now realize that the takeover of school governance in DC was a terrible mistake. I wonder if Mayor Fenty makes up the rules as he goes along. Little wonder that Chancellor Michelle Rhee stated in the Government Accounting Office (GAO) report that it is not important for her to reveal an educational strategic plan .

Just this week Marta Guzman, the fired DCPS principal of Oyster/Adams bilingual school, appeared on Jerry Phillips’ community radio show (1500 AM/107.7 FM), in an episode titled: The Other Side of the Story. It seems odd that Rhee did not renew Guzman’s contract, given that Oyster school was just bestowed the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon award in 2007. Twenty-four plus principals whose contracts were not renewed by Rhee, according to Guzman, weren’t given appropriate notice and were not given a reason for being let go as required by their school officers’ union contract. Oddly enough, these principals purport that they had been given good evaluations. It appears that DCPS procedures were not adhered to by Chancellor Rhee. This sounds similar to the DC Metropolitan Police Department debacle. After firing seventeen DC police officers, the MPD had to reinstate officers to their positions with back pay because it failed to comply with critical agency deadlines. These soon-to-be terminated DCPS principals will be like their police counterparts. They will file agency grievances as well as a class-action lawsuit to address the agency’s failure to comply with required procedures and the due process of law.

The Washington Post reported last week that an anonymous Washington Teachers’ Union member revealed that members of the WTU contract negotiating team feel that they have no choice but to give in to Chancellor Rhee’s demand to get rid of seniority in the upcoming teachers contract. After this article appeared , many teachers called the WTU office to complain. Twenty DCPS teachers stormed the WTU office last Thursday during an evening board meeting to make a passionate appeal to the WTU President Parker to insist that the WTU fight to keep seniority in DCPS teachers contract no matter the financial incentives being proposed by the Rhee team. Glance at the web site, and you will find that Chancellor Rhee has reopened the Teacher Transition Award program for one more week, from May 21-28. This program encourages DCPS teachers and providers in closing and restructured schools to accept meager financial awards of $1,000 to $20,000 in exchange for resigning their jobs. If they take this award, teachers must agree to sign a contract that states that they cannot return to DCPS for five years. Teachers cannot rescind their decision to resign. No credible school system encourages their certified and experienced mid-level and senior-level employees to resign their jobs in exchange for recruiting inexperienced and uncertified educators.

The current DCPS administration has a new proposal that seeks to waive the requirements for those entering as new principals, assistant principals, and school officers under Section 1667, Title 5 of the DCMR. The research supports that there is a correlation between experience and higher student performance; Fenty and Rhee and their supporters believe that no experience is necessary to teach or run schools. They are traveling down a very slippery slope. It makes me think that Fenty and Rhee are conspiring to make DCPS schools look even worse than they are so that charter schools will seem better than they actually are.


Metro Almost Has It Right
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Boarding the Green Line at Navy Yard Station at the end of a Nationals’ game is pretty smooth these days. Trains arrive about every three minutes and load quickly. About half the folks who board at the Navy Yard leave at L’Enfant Plaza to get the Blue and Orange Lines to Virginia. The problem arises at Gallery Place, where a lot of folks transfer to the Red Line toward Shady Grove. As many as three Green line trains unload their transferring passengers before the first Red Line rain comes in. This makes for a very crowded platform at Gallery Place and a real donnybrook (a la the Tokyo Metro) getting aboard the Red Line toward Shady Grove. The solution would be to run a few additional Red Line trains timed to be at Gallery Place near the end of the Nationals’ games.


Good Corporate Citizenship
Jonathan Rees,

DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has asked local businesses to invest in our children’s education by contributing to a program that will spruce up the looks of our schools, et cetera, but his request has not been well received by the business community []. I normally do not agree with most things Fenty does, but on this issue I do.

Businesses are corporate citizens, and they have an obligation to contribute from their surpluses by reinvesting in the community that has allowed them to make money. Far more than that, what they are being asked to give might benefit them down the road. The failure of the business community to kick in is pure stinginess and nothing else.


Mayor Fenty Shrugs off Campaign Finance Form
Paul D. Craney,

Mayor Adrian Fenty and several councilmembers want you to believe they either did not attend a single event that had an admission price or paid full price for every event they attended in 2007. The DC Office of Campaign Finance has copies of the financial disclosure forms for each councilmember and the mayor that were due on May 15. The first question of the financial disclosure form requires each elected official to state if they have financial interests (do they own stocks or property) that do business with the District that exceeds $1,000. Question 7 asks them to list all the gifts that they receives with an aggregated value of $100 or more. If they attended events for civic organizations, fundraisers, or meals with influential individuals for free, they are required to indicate the dollar amount of the benefits they received.

“Mayor Fenty’s latest attempt to dodge transparency brings complete disrespect for the office he holds and does a disservice to the people he represents. There is no excuse for a mayor who has made it his hallmark to be at all places all the time to completely ignore the law’s requirement that promotes transparency from their elected officials. DC residents deserve to know if the mayor paid for every single event he went to in 2007, or if he is falsifying his financial disclosure forms,” stated DC Republican Committee Chair Robert Kabel.


Accountability, Democracy, and Statehood
Richard Layman,

Re: Accountability [themail, May 21]. It certainly argues against statehood. If the chief executive (the mayor) and the city council, not to mention the local newspaper, neither favor nor practice democratic processes themselves, how can the polity (DC, the District of Columbia) truly ever make the moral, policy, and practice arguments in favor of statehood?


Knock, Knock
Malcolm Wiseman, Washington Free DC!,

Knock, knock, knock. Nobody is at the door. It’s a broken record. Over and over, the same $#&* thing, nothing new. You need to stop harping and whining about the school took-over and get on to something else, or soon your only contributors will be you, Rees, and Dorothy. Have you noticed the drop-off in the number of articles lately? I have. Get back on track and cover the whole city-state!



DPW Announces Area’s First Free Weekly Shredding, May 24
Nancee Lorn,

The Department of Public Works (DPW) will offer the metropolitan area’s first permanent, weekly document shredding service, for District residents only, at the Benning Road Trash Transfer Station, 3200 Benning Road, NE. Two shredding trucks will be on site each Saturday, beginning May 24, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. District residents may bring up to five medium-size boxes (no larger than the standard District recycling bin, which is approximately 20” x 14” x 14”) of personal documents to be shredded. Only paper (staples, paper clips, and binder clips on the paper are okay) and credit cards will be accepted. No business or commercial material will be accepted. District residents also may bring household hazardous waste and unwanted electronics between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to the transfer station for proper disposal.

To prevent identity theft, shred confidential information, such as bills, old credit cards, and even junk mail; order a credit report on an annual basis; do not carry your Social Security card or have your Social Security number on your driver’s license or personal checks; do not leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends; carry only the credit cards you need; consider signing credit cards “Ask for ID” instead of with your signature.

Benning Road, NE, is under construction, so there may be traffic delays as well. For more information, visit DPW’s web site at or call 311.


CityVision Final Presentation, May 30
Jazmine Zick,

Friday, May 30, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Outreach Program: CityVision: Final Presentation. The spring 2008 CityVision program, in partnership with the National Capital Planning Commission, challenged students from Charles Hart Middle School and Hardy Middle School to develop plans for the future of DC’s North Capitol Street Corridor. Join us for the presentation of the students’ final designs. Free. Registration not required. Refreshments will be served following the presentation. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


The Uprising, June 4
Kesh Ladduwahetty, DC for Democracy,

David Sirota, best-selling author and journalist, is coming to town to talk about The Uprising, his latest book about the populist revolt against politics as usual, which is transforming the political scene. Sirota will talk about his book at Borders bookstore, 1800 L Street, NW, 18th and L Street, NW, on Wednesday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m. DC for Democracy, DC Drinking Liberally, and Firedoglake blog are very pleased to cosponsor this event. Afterwards, we hope you join us for food and drinks at Porter’s Dining Saloon (1207 19th Street, NW) until 9:00 p.m. If you can’t make it to the book event, you can still meet David Sirota at Porter’s later that night. Sign up for the event at


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