Reinstate 3 Social Workers, D.C. Told

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 6, 2008

Three of the social workers fired for their involvement in the high-profile Banita Jacks case were unjustly terminated by the mayor and should get their jobs back, according to a D.C. arbitrator's ruling.

Days after Jacks was found with the bodies of her four dead daughters inside her home and was arrested in their killings in January, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) fired the six employees at the Child and Family Services Agency who had anything to do with the case.

Fenty held a news conference, announced the firings and was applauded for taking charge.

But in his ruling this week, arbitrator John C. Truesdale wrote, "Basic notions of fairness and due process have not been met in this case."

He ordered the city to take back the workers, expunge the termination from their records, reinstate their pay and benefits, and give them back pay, with interest, for the nine months they were away from the agency.

The Fenty administration will appeal the arbitrator's decision to the Public Employee Relations Board, spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said.

"It's only a recommendation," Hobson said. "And we disagree with the findings."

Union officials don't believe that the board will accept an appeal.

"There's no basis for an appeal," said Al Bilik of District Council 20 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "Arbitration makes it final and binding."

The three nonmanagement social workers, who belong to AFSCME, appealed Fenty's action. A city hearing officer upheld their appeal in March, but the agency said it wouldn't take them back, so the case went to arbitration.

Truesdale's ruling was, in places, a biting rebuke of Fenty's actions.

"Not only had the Mayor ordered their dismissal without any investigation, it is undisputed that he issued a further order prohibiting any consideration of the Hearing Officer's recommendation to overturn the dismissals," it said.

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