On some occasions, Metro Scene has reported instances where District of Columbia employes have been treated very gently by the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals for violations that seemed worthy of stern action.
So, today we bring you a report that the agency has upheld stern action -- firing -- of a motor vehicle inspector who was accused (though exonerated of some specific charges) of fraud in securing his appointment and falsification of official records, misuse of his official position, dishonesty, inefficiency, discourteous treatment of the public and other failure of good behavior. The findings were announced in the D.C. Register without giving the former employe's name.
At the time the charges were brought and his firing was ordered by the then-D.C. Department of Transportation in 1981, the employe had worked as a grade 5 vehicle inspector for eight years. He filed his appeal the next year.
According to the finding, the employe had failed to admit, on his employment application, a conviction for simple assault. He was accused, but for lack of specific evidence was found not guilty, of passing six vehicles he had not actually inspected, but the agency raised unproven questions that he may have been involved in other improper vehicle approvals.
And there was a case of individual discourteous treatment: A Ms C. went to the Half Street SW inspection station on July 27, 1981, and was confronted by the inspector who -- the woman complained -- commented on her pretty smile and then, looking at her damp car seat, asked, "Do you always sweat this much? . . . You're not even doing anything but sitting in the car."
The discharged employe did not deny his statements, saying he was only trying to carry on a conversation. But, according to the Office of Employe Appeals hearing officer, Frankie M. Foster, it may in one respect not have been so much a matter of offensiveness than whether the comment "placed Ms C. in a vulnerable position . . . . She indeed may have been hesitant to express displeasure with the inspector's comments prior to his final decision on her car." It flunked.
The first offense -- lying on the application -- was found by the appeals board to be enough to justify the employe's removal. And, going to the complaint of Ms C., it called the comments to her "totally inappropriate" and said, "Discourteous treatment of the public cannot be condoned if the public is to continue to have trust and respect for the D.C. government."