A federal agency ruled this week that the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which is supposed to enforce the city's antidiscrimination because its director, Anita B. Shelton, fired three high-ranking employes and demoted three others out of personal animosity.
The federal Merit Systems Protection Board, in a ruling Monday, concluded that Shelton's "improper considerations were substantial factors in the agency's" February 1980 action.
The report, which is the latest chapter in a long history of pitched internal battles that have plagued the agency for years, quoted former agency deputy directory A. Franklin Anderson as saying that Shelton told him that she wished to fire one man because he "gave her a hard time" and she "couldn't stand him," and another because he was doing her "too much harm."
Shelton asserted, the testimony continued, that she was "having a hard time," keeping another man to her "game plan," and in the case of the only woman, Shelton said that she "could not get [her] to do what [Shelton] wanted." All of the six, Anderson quoted Shelton as saying, were "burnt out," and needed to be replaced with "fresh bodies."
Though the report said that Anderson and other witnesses for the employes could not be "considered as totally neutral," it also said that neither Shelton nor the agency presented any evidence to rebut their testimonies.
Shelton, a former staff employee of the Washington and national Urban Leagues and trainer for the National Council of Negro Women, was appointed to the Office of Human Rights by Mayor Marion Barry in April 1979 to help clean up what many city leaders considered an ineffective, complacent and inefficient agency run by James W. Baldwin. At the time of her appointment, Shelton vowed that the rights office would become "a tough and outspoken champion for all who are protected under the law."
In an interview yesterday, Shelton who is under investigation by the D.C. Office Personnel for giving employes unrecorded leave time and bottles of champagne as incentives to do minimum amounts of work -- said she had no yet seen the merti board's report, but that "I never made statements of that kind about individuals. It's not my style or my class.
"I was just trying to make the agency the best I could," Shelton said. "I didn't do anything wrong in following the city's [Reduction in Force] policies. . . . It's just hard to convince people who are negatively impacted that you didn't mean anything personal."
Wilmer Gilmore, the deputy director of the District's Department of Personnel, said yesterday that the city plans to appeal the cases. "We disagree with those findings and believe it was all based on heresay by witnesses who had a personal interest. We believe we can win on appeal." If the appeal fails, the employes would be entitles to reinstatement and possible lost promotions.
Though the District has one of the strongest human rights laws in the country, the rights agency, which examines discrimination in the private as well as the public sector, has at least two other discrimination cases by rights employes pending against Shelton. And last month, the Human Rights Commission decided to form a committee to help Shelton improve her staff's work. The rights office has been criticized by individuals, private firms and government agencies that have appeared before it.
According to the merit board's report, after Shelton took over the agency, she proposed a realignment of the agency that eliminated or demoted eight high-ranking GS11, 12 and 13 positions.
One of the demoted employes, Mildred M. Davis, a GS13 who was the special assistant to the director and was once the Equal Employment Opportunity specialist under Mayor Walter Washington, said yesterday that when Shelton was appointed, "she already had someone else in mind for my job, someone from the outside."
Except for two three-week assignments, David said, she did nothing at the office from June 1979 until February 1980, when the RIFs occurred. "Shelton sent no work to me. I would come in and make sure I was here on time. They never cared what you did as long as you came in and left on time." t
Another demoted employe, Henry P. Whitehead, a former GS13 associate director, said that she was now the boss and she could hire and fire in total disregard to the merit protection system and employe rights . . . . She totally disregarded experience and expertise."