Bettie J. Robinson director of the D.C. Office of Consumer Protection, has dimissed two senior employes as part of what she calls reorganization made necessary by the new D.C. consumer protection law. Robinson said she will use the two positions to hire a deputy director and general counsel as perscribed in the 1976 legislation.
The employes, senior program analyst Dorothy J. Kennison and office administrator Sylvenia M. Doby, charge, however, that they are being dismissed for personal reasons. Kennison cited the competition last spring between her and Robinson for the directorship of the agency.
"I think she's just trying to remove the competition," said Kennison, who has hired attorney Dale Cotter to represent her in fighting the dismissal.
The former director of the office, Edith Barksdale-Sloan, recommended to Mayor Walter E. Washington that Kennison succeed her as head of the consumer agency. Despite the endorsement of Kennison by Barksdale-Sloan and several consumer advocacy groups, however, the mayor appointed Robinson.
Shortly before she left the city office last spring to become a member of the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. Barksdale-Sloan wrote a letter to the D.C. personnel office saying that Robinson's work was deficient in at least 22 of 29 job areas. Barksdale-Sloan charged that Robinson's deficiencies involved her production, dependability, program planning and management capabilities, among other duties.
On Aug. 28, Kennison and Doby were notified by Robinson in writing that their jobs would end Sept. 29.
"It's difficult for me to understand the riff," said Kennison. "If the reduction in force is going to be based on job performance I don't see how it could be justified."
Doby said she felt the director's animosity was directed at her because she had hand-delivered Barksdale-Sloan's official reprimand of Robinson when Robinson was general counsel.
Robinson denied the charges, saying, "Most people who know us know there was no competition. They (Kennison and Doby) were both subordinates to me."
Attorney Cotter said he will challenge the riff on the basis that Robinson has not followed personnle regulations.
Doby said she has neither the funds nor emotional strength to fight the action. Before getting the termination notice, she said she had received an official reprimand by Robinson for being absent from the office without permission on July 14. Records show Doby had submitted a form on July 13, requesting eight hours leave the next day. She said she reminded Robinson of the request before she left work on the 13th and assumed it was approved.
Two weeks later she was informed she had been placed in "AWOL status (without pay)." At the time, records show that Doby had 214 hours of annual leave coming to her.
Doby has since asked the director to rescind the reprimand but said she has received no reply. The reprimand, she said, will be her first in her 21 years of service in the federal and D.C. governments. She said she will now seek a job in the private sector.
Robinson said she began finalizing the reorganization plans with D.C. Personnel Director George Harrod this summer.
Several other employes of the agency said, however, they believe the reorganization is being used as an excuse to dismiss Kennison and Doby and bring in more of Robinson's friends.
"They were performing their jobs. It was vindictiveness," said one employe.
Several employes charged that cronyism, and unexplained demotions and firings have led to poor staff morale, and a backlog of hundreds of consumer compalint cases.
Robinson denied the charges. She said there are 2,160 consumer complaints presently being investigated, but only 378 can be considered a backlog.
When Robinson took over as director last spring, about 1,200 cases were being investigated, according to one employe.
Robinson said staff morale is generally good, although a few employes have complained.
"There are people who just aren't compatible. It's because they don't git in," she said.