A senior D.C. Department of Health manager was fired yesterday, as city administration officials continued to make sweeping changes in the troubled agency.
Theodore J. Gordon, who has worked in the department for 31 years and who oversaw the environmental health division, said he was placed on administrative leave by the acting Health Department director, Herbert R. Tillery, and given a termination letter effective Aug. 6.
Also yesterday, Mayor Anthony A. Williams's chief of staff, Kelvin J. Robinson, announced that he will leave Aug. 1 for a job in the private sector. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Robinson, who has worked under Williams (D) for three years, violated the Hatch Act by allegedly asking city workers to contribute to the mayor's 2002 reelection campaign.
Robinson said the allegations did not prompt his decision to leave. Alfreda Davis, who had been Robinson's deputy, was named to replace him.
In the Health Department, Gordon called his firing "a total surprise." But it comes just 31/2 months after the department's former director, James A. Buford, was terminated and his chief of staff, Phyllis Mayo, and the agency's chief operating officer, Ronald Lewis, were reassigned.
Tillery and City Administrator Robert C. Bobb have said that the Health Department would undergo significant personnel changes after an in-depth management review found serious problems throughout the agency, which has a $1.5 billion budget and more than 1,400 employees.
Tony Bullock, spokesman for the mayor, confirmed that Gordon was placed on leave. He called changes in the department "a work in progress" and added that "there are people who are being reassigned, people being moved. And there will also be a lot of new people coming on board."
Gordon has had medical problems, which forced him to take leave in February before he returned the next month. He said yesterday he felt blindsided by Tillery's decision because he had not been told previously that his performance was inadequate.
"There's nothing in my personnel file that's negative," he said. "It wasn't because of mismanagement. My program was functioning well. . . . I've had a good career and worked for many mayors and council people and never been accused of anything."
Williams and Bobb said yesterday at the mayor's weekly news conference that announcements would be made soon about who will take over the department, which also is without a permanent chief medical officer. Tillery, who had been the deputy mayor for operations, has been among the candidates for the permanent health director position.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said he worried that with Gordon's departure, the Health Department was losing important institutional knowledge. Mendelson added that he feared administration officials were making changes without properly informing the council about a grand plan.
"I do not understand what kind of restructuring could be going on," Mendelson said. "I'm concerned that with Ted leaving, I'm not sure what that means. I have not heard a lot of criticism on him with environmental issues."
Bullock said Williams "has confidence in the judgment of Robert Bobb and Deputy Mayor Tillery and is giving them the authority they need to do what they think needs to be done."
In the mayor's cabinet, Robinson is leaving to become president and chief executive officer at EmergeDC, a Washington affiliate for a Florida-based company.
Several Williams administration officials have alleged that Robinson urged a group of more than 200 administration officials to donate time and money to the mayor's campaign in August 2002. Two officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have said Robinson told the group, "Get out your checkbooks."
Williams attended the meeting and was present when Robinson spoke, administration officials have said. Robinson has said that his comments were misunderstood and that he did not intend to solicit contributions for the campaign.