A union official representing employees in the office of the D.C. attorney general has asked the inspector general to investigate whether the city's top lawyer interfered with a probe involving a supervisor accused of discrimination and retaliation.
Joseph Bradley, the secretary-treasurer of AFSCME Local 2401, said in a letter last week that Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti may have "abused the authority" of his position by removing Angela Harvey as chairman of the Equal Employment Officers Committee. Harvey had been investigating discrimination allegations against Kristin Henrikson, chief of the legal services section for the Child Support Services Division.
In the letter, Bradley alleged that Spagnoletti was aware that Harvey was prepared to make a positive finding that discrimination had occurred in Henrikson's office.
"Our concern is heightened because Ms. Harvey was removed from the investigation about a day after she requested to interview Ms. Henrikson," Bradley wrote.
Traci L. Hughes, a spokeswoman for Spagnoletti, released a statement Monday saying that Harvey had asked to be removed. Harvey was then chief of the Neighborhood and Victim Services Section of the Public Safety Division in addition to her EEOC duties.
"Ms. Harvey was replaced as chair of the Equal Employment Officers Committee at her request, and was relieved of that duty early in the investigation process," Hughes said in the statement.
Hughes said that Harvey was replaced before she actually interviewed Henrikson or "anyone in the managerial chain who had information pertaining to the alleged discrimination claims." Hughes said Tuesday that Harvey had requested an interview with Henrikson before Harvey left the committee.
Austin A. Andersen, spokesman for D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, said that the union's request for an investigation was being evaluated.
Bradley said the attorney general's EEO committee should become an independent office.
"I don't trust the attorney general's office to have authority over EEOC," Bradley said. "If it's part of the office management, then the office has control."
The attorney general's office, formerly the Office of the Corporation Counsel, represents the District government in all of its legal matters, including charges of discrimination filed against agencies. The office is responsible for 90,000 open child support cases, representing children who receive child support payments through the court system.
Last month, three African American lawyers who work under Henrikson filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing her of showing preferential treatment to white attorneys and retaliating against the black attorneys who complained, according to Richard Semsker, the lawyers' attorney.
The complaint alleges that Henrikson said some of the black attorneys were unqualified and "lazy." She also directed black attorneys to sign motions that they did not believe were legally supportable, while white attorneys were given the option not to sign, Semsker said. The complaint also alleges that white attorneys were allowed to arrive late and run errands without using leave time.
Two of the attorneys, Tia Clark and Eboni Govan, released copies of their complaint last month. The third attorney asked not to be identified.
The lawyers said they filed charges of discrimination with Harvey's committee in October. They said the committee did not produce any findings within six months, as legally mandated. Harvey was removed from her position as chairman in January.
The union does not represent the lawyers. But Bradley said several union members also have filed grievances and discrimination complaints with the committee, also alleging that Henrikson treated white employees more favorably than black employees.
The union wants the inspector general to investigate whether Harvey was removed because she was going to make an unfavorable finding against Henrikson, Bradley said. Although Spagnoletti later reorganized the EEO office, Bradley questioned whether Harvey had to be removed before completing her investigation.
"I feel the investigation was tampered with," Bradley said. "People come to me and ask me what happened to their complaint. I can't explain it."
Harvey, who is now chief of the Paternity and Community Outreach Section, did not return telephone calls requesting comment. She was replaced by Tarifah Coaxum, the attorney general's freedom of information officer.
Bradley said he also filed an unfair labor practices complaint last month with the Public Employees Relations Board for retaliation because he felt Henrikson harassed him about his union activities. Bradley, who has worked for Child Support Services for 12 years, said he became a union representative in 2000.
Describing one grievance, Bradley said a union member asked for help after Henrikson put a stack of papers on a woman's desk and ordered her to put them in the trash. The employee, a 54-year-old woman whom he did not identify, said that was not her job. Although the employee dumped the trash, Henrikson placed a letter of reprimand in her file.
Bradley said Henrikson defended her actions by saying the woman was being "sassy and back-talking." Henrikson's supervisor later removed the letter.
The employee also was placed on restricted leave for several weeks and had to e-mail Henrikson whenever she left her desk, including for restroom breaks, Bradley said.
Union officials questioned personnel actions in the attorney general's office during a Labor-Management Partnership Council meeting in June. Minutes state that AFSCME, along with AFGE Local 1403, said processing EEO complaints took a "protracted amount of time." Officials also were concerned about the termination of "what appears to be an inordinate number of African American male attorneys compared to the number of white male attorneys."