Mayor Anthony A. Williams's top aide should share the blame for $5 million in unfunded costs in the D.C. Department of Corrections, because as the city's budget director he promised to allocate the money but never did, a D.C. Council member said yesterday.
Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), chairman of the government operations committee, said that as the District's budget director, Abdusalam Omer agreed to fund the pay raises for fiscal 1999. Omer is now Williams's chief of staff, and this week he said management problems within corrections were to blame for the unfunded overtime, part of the department's $25 million deficit.
But Patterson, in a letter yesterday to Williams (D), said that Omer's role in the overtime matter should not be forgotten.
"I think it is important that as we address budget issues, we work from a consistent set of facts," Patterson said. "Funds for this pay raise were certified by Deputy Chief Financial Officer Abdusalam Omer."
Omer acknowledged yesterday that he had recommended that money for the overtime pay be put into the current year's budget but said that he was overruled by Congress.
"We were told not to give the money," he said. "The councilwoman well knows that any salary increases have to go through a legislative process. This is not a mom-and-pop operation."
Omer indicated that corrections officials--specifically Stephanie Mitchell, then the department's chief financial officer--should have kept up with Congress's action on the budget and realized that the overtime funds had been removed before the department ran up such bills.
Mitchell was ousted from her position this week in a shake-up ordered by corrections chief Odie Washington, who reassigned her and his three top deputies.
The overtime costs are symbolic of continuing problems in the D.C. corrections system. Last year, the D.C. financial control board approved using management reform money to boost workers' pay to help retain corrections officers until the scheduled 2001 shutdown of the Lorton Correctional Complex in Fairfax County. The shortfall arose this year when the District did not budget for the higher salaries.
"There's a lot of blame to go around," Patterson said of the overtime problems, "and I think the executive branch needs to own up to it."