Nearly a year ago -- July 1 to be exact -- Mayor Marion Barry announced the appointment of the city's first ethics ombudsman in what he said was "a continuing effort to root out the small amount of unethical conduct and corruption in D.C. government . . . . "
That latter topic has certainly been in the news, but some city officials note the ombudsman has not.
The ombudsman appointment was part of Barry's election-year anticorruption package that included wallet cards and posters touting the city's ethics laws and appointment of ethics counselors in each city agency. The ombudsman was to complement the city's inspector general, auditor and public integrity unit of the police force.
Now, 11 months later:
1. Can you name the ombudsman?
2. Can you locate the office?
3. Do you know the telephone number?
Here are the answers:
1. Former D.C. Superior Court judge Catherine B. Kelly.
2. 918 16th St. NW, Suite 700.
"It hasn't been publicized enough for people to know where to come," said Kelly, whose ombudsman duties take about two days a week from her full-time job as a private practice attorney. The only real publicity -- other than that accompanying her appointment -- was a notice inserted in city employe paychecks last fall.
"It's not as busy as I thought it would be," Kelly said this week. In the months since she took the job, Kelly said she has received some telephone calls, but mostly about individual personnel problems in the government, not allegations of corruption or misconduct. One call was a complaint about child abuse.
A few cases of alleged bribery or private contractor abuse have been referred to the police department, but Kelly said the pace of work has not justified hiring an investigator and two other staff members. Kelly is paid by the hour, based on an annual salary of $68,000.
Kay Cochran, a former staff member of the law revision commission and the D.C. Council personnel office, is Kelly's administrative assistant. Cochran began work in October in the tiny five-room suite of offices across from the Sheraton Carlton Hotel.
At first, "we literally didn't have a chair to sit on," Cochran said this week. Although now furnished, the ombudsman office is "still trying to get a computer system put in" that would allow the ombudsman access to District government information.
Cochran said members of the public also are encouraged to report ethical misconduct, but she said the intense publicity surrounding the U.S. attorney's office probe of government contracting has not produced any upsurge in calls.
"It seems to have been rather quiet," Cochran said.
Barry said last year that the ombudsman would be authorized to release reports to him, the D.C. Council and the public "as the ombudsman deems appropriate." Kelly said that so far she has given only a summary report of calls to her office for budget planning reasons.
Despite the slow start, Kelly said she thinks the office could be useful. "I think its something that needs to be done." Riverfest
City public works director John (Touch) Touchstone found a way to get through the huge crowd of people at the weekend festival on the waterfront. Touch used a golf cart to check out how city employes were handling the event. But what he could have really used, he ruefully said a little too late Sunday afternoon, was large doses of sun screen that would have prevented or lessened the red lobster glow he had acquired. Welcome Aboard
Mayor Barry's new press secretary, John C. White, is quickly getting his sea legs. "I've never worked as hard in my life," White said last week in the midst of what has been almost nonstop appearances and consultations.
White's office has been deluged with telephone calls and media requests stemming from the U.S. attorney's office probe into alleged corruption in the District's contracting services. White last worked as a city hall reporter for The Philadelphia Daily News before joining Barry's administration when he had the time and the luxury of asking questions instead of answering them.