The head of the National Institute of Mental Health has testified that Dr. Roger Peele was not chosen for the job of superintendent of St. Elizabeths Hospital because he lacked the necessary "flair" that the office demands.
In two days of testimony in U.S. court, Dr. Bertram Brown praised Peele's dedication and competence as the hospital's acting superintendent for the past two years, but said Peele never was his choice for the full-time slot.
Brown's testimony was presented in a trial in U.S. District Court here over Peele's challenge that he should be awarded the job full time after a lengthy selection process that a federal judge found was tained by racial bias.
Peele was one of three finalists for the full-time post in June, 1976, when Brown announced that the job would be given to Dr. Ulysses Watson. The other finalist was Dr. Charles Meredith.
Peele and Meredith are white; Watson is black.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery has ruled that Watson's appointment improperly involved racial considerations. However, Watson had withdrawn from the job before Flannery's ruling this fall.
So, the issue before Flannery at this point is whether Peele would have been selected over Meredith in 1976 regardless of the racial issue involved. The government contends that Peele was in third place when Brown made the June, 1976, choice and would not have been chosen even if Watson had turned down the job at the time.
In fact, Meredith since has been chosen for the job and currently is serving in that post. Peele is an assistant superintendent at the hospital.
Peele, who contends that he was ahead of Meredith in the selection process, is seeking to have the court name him as the director. He argues, basically, that Brown had no problems with his work as acting superintendent and that he was led to believe that he was the top person for the job.
Brown agreed under oath that he felt Peele had many good points and that he worked hard for the current patients at the hospital.
But, Brown said, Peele did not carry enough clout to get the kind of major changes that the hospital needed in its continuing fight to gain reaccreditation. He said Peele felt the major problem with the accreditation, which the hospital lost in the past two years, was the facility's need for new buildings and more money.
Brown said he agreed that buildings were a major problem, but that he felt other internal problems - such as poor record keeping - were just as important and that Peele did not do enough in that area.
"I think he did some things well, and some things poorly, but all in all not enough and not all that can and should be done," Brown said.
Brown said the St. Elizabeths superintendent had to look to the hospital's future course as well as its daily problems. He added that Peele disagreed with him on such issues as the transfer of the hospital to the District of Columbia and the transfer of more patients to residential care centers outside the hospital grounds.
One of the major problems, Brown said, was Peele's lack of political savvy of squeeze funds out of Congress and relate to District of Columbia officials with whom he regularly met.
"The superintendency is at an interface," Brown said, and must deal with groups ranging from Congress to neighborhood groups. "He is not a leader," Brown said of Peele.
Brown also said that he felt Peele made a political mistake when he said publicly the hospital's loss of accreditation was a political problem that resulted from previous administrations' failures to give the hospital enough money to operate.
Brown said he did not think that was the proper way to handle the issue, and said he actually approved of the hospital's loss of accreditation as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
He said he approved the hospital's unsuccessful appeal of the loss of accreditation only to "buy time and money" while attempting to work out internal problems.