An item in the District Politics column in the District Weekly yesterday incorrectly stated the breakdown for appointments to the National Capital Revitalization Corp. The president has three and the D.C. mayor has four. The mayoral appointments are subject to D.C. Council approval. (Published 11/12/99)
The D.C. financial control board is not happy about the slow pace of some of Mayor Anthony A. Williams's appointments and let him know that recently in its annual report to Congress.
The board singled out the appointments to the National Capital Revitalization Corp. (NCRC), a partnership between the District and the federal government that would coordinate and promote public-private economic development activities around the city. Control board members are pressing for a short-term, five-year economic development strategy, and the corporation is a key part of it.
The corporation will be run by a nine-member board. Williams (D) has four appointees, and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) has three. The other two positions are held by the mayor and chief financial officer. None of the seven vacancies has been filled.
"The authority is concerned about the slow start of the NCRC and urges that the appointment process receive priority attention," the board said, a statement aimed squarely at the mayor and the council.
Williams has been criticized by other groups for not making appointments to boards and commissions as quickly as some would like. When he took over in January, he was faced with filling 450 vacancies on boards and commissions, in addition to naming the key managers of his administration, including the cabinet-level agency directors.
Of those 450 vacancies, the mayor has filled 375, said Marie Drissel, Williams's special assistant for boards and commissions.
Compounding the delay in the corporation appointments, Williams's top economic development official, Douglas J. Patton, left and was replaced Oct. 10 by Eric Price.
The mayor's spokeswoman, Peggy Armstrong, said: "What's taken time is finding the right people and matching them with the right appointments. We've been trying to find people committed to doing a good job and who are committed to the mayor's vision for the city."
Ethics Charges Dismissed
Ethics charges have been dismissed in the case involving Jerrily R. Kress, a former member of the D.C. Zoning Commission who resigned from the panel and then was promptly chosen by her former colleagues to be the commission's director, a $102,477-a-year administrative post.
A downtown community activist filed a complaint in July, alleging the commission had improperly hired Kress the previous month in part because she had used her influence as the former chairman to persuade the two other board members to pick her over about 14 other applicants.
The allegations were rejected this month by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. Kress's attorney said she knew all along the charges were unfair.
"Ms. Kress is relieved with this expected outcome and believes in this instance the system worked," said David S. Julyan. "Ms. Kress has a 30-year unblemished record of public service and commitment to this city. She knew she was innocent."
But Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said he remains convinced that what Kress did was wrong.
"It may not be illegal; that does not make it right or ethical," said Lynch, who is considering an appeal of the decision. "They have tarnished the reputation of the Zoning Commission."
According to the decision signed by Board of Elections and Ethics Director Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery, 14 applicants for the zoning office director's job were formally considered by a special review committee, which brought forward four names.
None of those four--or any of the 10 others--were considered "appropriate for the job" by Kress or the other two commission members, the decision said. So in early May, Kress let her two colleagues on the commission know that she would like to apply.
"Ms. Kress immediately recused herself from any discussions of the issue dealing with the selection of the director," said a staff opinion endorsed by Collier-Montgomery.
Commission members Angel Clarens and Anthony Hood discussed Kress's application in a closed session and "did not discuss the matter with Ms. Kress," the decision said. About a month after she applied for the job, Kress resigned as chairman of the Zoning Commission. The next day, the two remaining board members appointed her to the director's job.
Collier-Montgomery's order dismisses Lynch's allegations against Kress, Clarens and Hood, endorsing a staff opinion that the two did not "disclose confidential information" to Kress or give Kress "an unfair advantage that resulted in her appointment." Kress also "did not misuse her official position as chairperson of [the Zoning Commission] to influence" Hood or Clarens "to obtain the position," the staff opinion said.