Three city employees have been let go after an investigation found that a mentally retarded man living in a cockroach-infested apartment had been denied disability services for more than two years, even as a social worker pleaded for him to get some assistance.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Attorney General Peter J. Nickels held a news conference today to announce the findings of the investigation that began after they were contacted by The Washington Post about the case.
Nickles and Fenty outlined what they called "a bureaucratic struggle that would end in tragedy."
The man, identified only by the pseudonymn of "Mr. Johnson," was hit by a bus as a toddler and left mentally disabled. He spent the next five decades being cared for by his mother until her death in 1993. After she died, social workers and an AARP volunteer tried desperately to help Johnson receive the medical attention he needed.
But according to the report, requests to the Department of Disability Service were not processed until shortly before Johnson died in February, in large part because employees could not locate the paperwork that he lacked since his mother had cared for him.
Nickels said that new safeguards were being taken to assure that others in the same situation would be visited immediately and provided assistance.
"It's particularly tragic when government is imperfect when we deal with our most vulnerable citizens," said Nickels. He said that if Johnson were alive, his case would be treated differently today.
"None of the employees who previously worked on this case will be working at intake," he said. "They've been replaced with new employees who have been trained and who are now implementing new processes and enforcing standards. His case would not be closed until there was a confirmation that permanent supports were in place in meeting his needs."
Additional measures are being taken to determine if other employees should to be disciplined.
"There very likely will be additional personnel action," Fenty said.