The District's public health commissioner, Dr. Andrew McBride, has agreed to repay the city government for personal trips he took in his government car and for some 202 long-distance calls he made from his car phone to an old friend in Minnesota, who had been hired as a full-time consultant to the commission, according to informed D.C. government sources.
The consultant, Charles E. Dickerson, also will be required to prepare another "final" consultant report for the District government, which paid him $38,788 for seven months of work under the contract, ending in early April, sources in the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) said yesterday.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that McBride had hired Dickerson, an old college friend, as a $245-a-day, full-time consultant to the public health commission, though Dickerson continued to live in Minnesota and maintained a full-time job at Carleton College there.
The agreement on how to deal with the Dickerson contract was hammered out over a period of days this week among McBride, DHS Director David Rivers and City Administrator Thomas Downs following the reports. McBride and Rivers plan to hold a press conference today to announce the agreement, which is intended to "close the book" on the matter, the sources said.
The work submitted under the contract -- including a document labled "final consultant report" by the health commission -- "was not intended to be a final product and is not acceptable as a final product," in the official view to be presented today, the sources said.
A DHS audit determined that McBride ran up $4,800 in car phone bills in the first six months of this year, primarily because of the numerous calls to Dickerson.
The exact amount McBride is to repay for the calls and the trips was not revealed yesterday.
The Dickerson contract drew criticism both in the City Council and on Capitol Hill, where some members of Congress have suggested that more controls should be placed over District contracting in light of recent news reports.
Asked what Mayor Marion Barry's opinion was of the Dickerson contract, his spokeswoman, Annette Samuels, said: "That is a DHS matter. The mayor doesn't get involved in contracts of that kind."
For most of the seven months of the contract, Dickerson billed the city government for 40-hour work weeks. He told The Post earlier that he did not work this many hours for the District but had been instructed to bill that way to cover travel and other expenses.
McBride will acknowledge publicly today that the billing procedure was not a proper means for Dickerson to receive reimbursement for travel and expenses, the sources said yesterday.
In addition, the health commission files on consultant and professional services contracts are to be opened up to public review, the sources said.
Rivers accepts these measures as a final resolution of the matter, the sources said. Rivers had told the Post after a preliminary review of the Dickerson file that the city had not gotten $38,000 worth of work from the contract, adding that he planned to take further action on the car phone bills once a DHS audit was completed.
A four-page "final consultative report" submitted by Dickerson to McBride and dated March 10 listed 21 general recommendations, such as holding retreats for staff, improving communications, hiring more consultants to spot-check facilities and "the possible phasing out of selected programs" without suggesting which ones.
That report told McBride not to work so hard at the commission but also suggested he investigate getting a teaching and hospital appointment for some hands-on medical practice. One of the 21 recommendations was that McBride should try to get two weeks of half-time leave to take care of personal affairs, such as housing and transportation.
It described bureaucracies as "the successors to superstition and custom as they relate to political decision-making in primal cultures" and concluded that "to many, the Bill of Rights, indeed the Constitution itself, is a form of bureaucracy, a double-edge sword which in fact defines our society."
The final $16,000 payment to Dickerson was justified on the basis of two five-page reports, one an evaluation of a youth drug program and the other an outline of a summer youth work program that listed general areas of activity.
The rest of the work product under the contract involved a proposal to the Kuwaiti government to invest in black-owned banks, consulting firms, cosmetics chains and beauty parlors. A spokeswoman for the Kuwaiti Embassy said the plan came to the embassy unofficially and was not seriously considered, and city officials said it is not being pursued.
Dickerson concluded in that proposal, "A very wise man once said, 'Friendships based on business tend to be more durable than business based on friendships.'"
After The Post made inquiries about the contract, Dickerson submitted a supplemental 35-page report dated Aug. 30 explaining what he had been doing for seven months. The report, which contained few recommendations, said major consideration was given to the tenets of Confucianism and outlined the history of professionalism and different management styles.
McBride succeeded Dr. Ernest Hardaway last summer as public health commissioner. Hardaway, who had been on loan to the city government from the U.S. Public Health Service, received an official reprimand from the PHS after The Post reported that he was being paid by Howard University to teach on Fridays at the same time he was supposed to be on the job as commissioner.