A preliminary investigation by the D.C. auditor found no hard evidence of impropriety but raises questions about the hiring by the city government last November of Gladys Yeldell, the wife of suspended D.C. Human Resources Department director Joseph P. Yeldell.
Auditor Matthew S. Watson had been investigating Mrs. Yeldell's hiring as a GS-9 programs analyst in the city's personnel department as part of a probe into allegations of nepotism and cronyism in the city government.
In a draft of a report schedule to be given to the City Council next week, Watson said there is "documentary evidence" to indicate that "Mrs Yeldell was given preferential treatment" and suggested that she may have been chosen for the job without legally-required competition.
The only evidence given in the report, however, is the fact that in a letter of resignation from her previous job, Mrs. Yeldell said she was leaving to "accept a position with the D.C. Department of Personnel." At the time of that letter, Oct. 18, the report says, the job for which she eventually was hired had not been advertised.
"Based on this letter it is apparent that Mrs. Yeldell was aware of a job opening in the personnel office and promised employment prior to Oct. 18. This was clearly unfair and imporper," the report reads.
The report adds that Watson's investigators were unable to find who had "improperly selected" Mrs. Yeldell. Everyone interviewed about the hiring, the report says, denied making any job offer prior to Nov. 9, the day she was hired.
The draft report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, had been prepared by Watson prior to release and sent out to persons under investigation ior their comment prior to publication. The comments are incorporated into the final report and sometimes alter the findings, Watson said.
Garry Myers, an attorney for the Yeldells, said yesterday that neither Yeldell nor his wife had yet been questioned by Watson's investigators. Both will be interviewed today, he said. "Any conclusions reached without her testimony are based more on theory than fact," Myers said.
Watson's investigation was prompted by a series of news reports that began Nov. 18, when The Washington Star reported that four relatives of Yeldell worked in DHR and two others - including Mrs. Yeldell - held jobs elsewhere in city government. All of the jobs were in possible violation of personnel regulations, The Star said.
The Star reported thay Mayor Walter E. Washington had signed a special order that enabled Mrs. Yeldell to obtain the job and that the funds to pay her salary were to come from the department run by her husband.
Watson's draft report found some irregularities with the job transfer order signed by the mayor, but said that Mrs. Yeldell was not placed in a job created by that order and that the funds for her salary did not come from DHR.
Mrs. Yeldell previously had worked at Washington Technical Institute but resigned from there Oct. 18. She was among nine persons on a list of application for the programs analyst position. Two of those applicants, including Mrs. Yeldell, were rated "highly qualified" for the job.
Nathaniel Sims, the chief hearing officer in for the Personnel Department, said yesterday that he interviewed both of the "highly qualified" persons and close Mrs. Yeldell. Sims said he had not met her before the interview and had not been pressured by anyone to hire her.
Mrs. Yeldell now works under Sims' supervision, evaluating and following up on the compliance orders of hearing officers in contested pupil tranfers and suspensions in the D.C. public school system.
City personnel director George R. Harrod said yesterday that he made no prior job offer to Mrs. Yeldell, but had talked with her on one occasion prior to her being employed. Harrod said he was told she was looking for a job then, but there were no openings in personnel at the time. He suggested that Mrs. Yeldell come back, later, Harrod said.
Watson's staff also investigated a job order signed by Mayor Washington Nov. 3 that transferred to the Personnel Department funds for two additional jobs. The funds came from positions in the Police Department and DHR that were authorized but not filled. The Personnel Department was to use the positions "to assist in the development of an independent personnel system," according to the job order.
The personnel office "never intended" to use the positions for that purpose, Watson's report reads. "It was always planned that the positions be general positions increasing the total resources of the personnel office."
The reports says that city administrator Julian Dugas and budget director Comer S. Copie, who both approved the transfer, were aware that of the ultimate plans for use of the positions, but that fact had not been told to the mayor.
At one point, the report said, there were three positions scheduled to be transferred, but the third, which was to come from the city's Recreation Department, was withdrawn after that department objected.
Harrod had "intended to use the funds transfered from the Recreation Department to support the position which Mrs. Yeldell untimately filled," the reports said. But once those funds were dropped, Harrod got the money to employ Mrs. Yeldell from his contigency funds, according to the report.
"There is evidence," the report says, "that Mrs. Yeldell was aware of the proposed transfers when she resigned from WTI."
Watson's investigators were unable to determine if there was any relation between Mrs. Yeldell's job and the inception of the job transfer order. "After approval by the mayor, the order has not been used to employ Mrs. Yeldell," ther report concluded.
Watson's investigation also covers other allegations of nepotism and cronyism in DHR hiring, but those findings were not immediately available.
On Tuesday, the mayor released a report on some aspects of DHR hiring by the Office of Municipal Audit and Inspection, but that report did not cover the hiring of Mrs. Yeldell.