The District's public health commissioner, Dr. Ernest Hardaway, has a second, paid job on Fridays at Howard University where he teaches clinical sessions in oral surgery during the regular work day--an arrangement that Hardaway's D.C. government superiors say they knew nothing about.
Human Services Director David E. Rivers, City Administrator Thomas Downs, and Hardaway's former boss, ex-DHS director James Buford, all said they had believed Hardaway was at work at his city job during working hours on Fridays until The Washington Post began making inquiries into the matter.
Records say Hardaway receives $68,294 a year from the government, which makes him one of the highest paid District employes.
Howard University spokesman Alan Hermesch said Hardaway is listed as a salaried, one-fifth-time (one day a week) associate professor with hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Dr. James Stanback, chairman of the oral surgery department, said Hardaway is scheduled to conduct two 3 1/2-hour clinical sessions each Friday and that "by and large" he has been there for the sessions, between which there is a one-hour break for lunch.
Hardaway said in an interview that the arrangement with Howard is a longstanding and proper one and that he does it to maintain his skills as an oral surgeon. While he said he tries to get to Howard every Friday, Hardaway said he does not let this interfere with his work as public health commissioner, a job he says he spends 80 hours a week performing.
"It is having a minimal impact on my activities here at the health commission ," Hardaway said. "I am a confirmed workaholic."
City rules on outside employment state that no employe may engage in an outside job that is not compatible with "full and proper discharge of his or her duties" and that government time may not be used for outside activities. No outside employment is allowed during regular working hours unless the employe is on annual leave or leave without pay approved in advance, the rules state.
Buford and Rivers said that they have been responsible for approving leave for Hardaway this year, and that he has rarely submitted leave slips for time taken on Fridays. Rivers said that in the four months he has been acting director he has approved one leave slip for Hardaway for a two-day absence. Rivers said, however, that Hardaway will be charged leave for any hours he has been absent during the regular work week for time spent at Howard.
Keith Vance, director of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, which enforces conflict-of-interest laws, said he sees "no violation of District law or ethical standards." He originally cited information that Hardaway was taking leave time for the activities, but after further investigation, including conversation with Hardaway, based his opinion mainly on Hardaway's technically being a federal employe.
Hardaway is a U.S. Public Health Service officer on loan to the District government, and the terms of a recently signed agreement call for the city to pay the federal government $90,439.92 a year for his services, covering both salary and fringe benefits.
The commissioner receives $68,294 in salary, special pay and allowances, according to the U.S. Public Health Service. Most top officials now are subject to a pay cap of $56,301, though this is due to rise to $63,700 next month.
Hardaway said he is keeping track himself of the amount of time he has spent at Howard, and that it is less than the amount of leave time he is entitled to. He said what he does with his annual leave is his own business, and declined to say how much time he had spent at Howard so far this year.
He did say he had been away from the office for a total of 117 hours this year, including a five-day vacation.
The commissioner said the two clinical sessions do not really last for the full seven hours shown on the schedule, and that he has reported to his health commission job every Friday. He said he has not missed any of the mayor's monthly cabinet meetings held on Friday mornings, and Downs confirmed that.
Hardaway declined to say how much Howard pays him, and university officials said Howard does not reveal salary information. While the Howard spokesman said he is "a salaried employe," Hardaway said what he receives is a "stipend" that he uses to cover such items as medical malpractice insurance. Federal records show him receiving a "per diem" plus expenses from Howard.
Buford said he agreed to a request by Hardaway for occasional lecturing, but that he had not known Hardaway had a regular schedule at Howard or that he was paid for his work there.
"I approved of his desire to lecture and maintain his skills, but not for compensation," Buford said. He said it would not be appropriate for Hardaway to maintain a regular one-day-a-week schedule at Howard.
"The agreement called for a 100 percent assignment which means he is there every day," Buford said. Public officials have to be at work when they are needed, and working long hours the rest of the week would not excuse an official from duty on other regular work days, he said.
City Administrator Downs defended Hardaway's activities, saying that the commissioner "is not a 9-to-5 person," that he works longer hours than that. Downs also noted that the arrangement with Howard University, which he became aware of only about two weeks ago, predated Hardaway's appointment as public health commissioner and was essentially a matter between Hardaway and the federal government since he is technically a federal employe.
Asked why the city is willing to condone the arrangement, Downs pointed both to the long hours he says Hardaway works and to the difficulty in finding a qualified public health commissioner who will work at the city's current pay ceiling of $56,301.
"They are a very scarce commodity in the pay range we have got," he said. Downs also said under these kinds of personnel arrangements the federal government usually picks up half the salary, though this time it did not. "We were a little surprised at the terms" of the agreement, he said.
The city signed in June a new two-year personnel agreement with the federal government for Hardaway's services. It states that Hardaway's hours are determined by the city, that he is subject to D.C. rules and that requests for outside employment must be submitted through the city and approved at the federal level.
Hardaway's arrangement with Howard was approved two years ago at the federal level. That federal approval is due to expire at the end of this month.
Dr. William Lassek, U.S. Public Health Service regional director, said it is up to District officials to decide whether they want to extend Hardaway's arrangement. If the city submits such a request, the federal government would be inclined to go along with it, he said.
Downs and Rivers said they had not known the agreement was up for renewal and said they would have to review the situation before deciding whether it would be appropriate.
"We will probably have to make different type of arrangements," Rivers said, but added that he would need to discuss this with Downs.
Hardaway apparently wasn't available to teach at Howard yesterday. He was in Las Vegas representing the local membership of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) at a five-day annual meeting of the AAOMS House of Delegates, with the city agreeing to pick up the expected tab of $1,190.70 for the trip, according to city records.