WHEN THE ALARM goes off at 6:30, the first thing I hear is the forecast for the week's weather. Warm and clear -- fantastic -- I'll be able to use my moped to get around town to my meetings, inspections and other appointments. The mobility and flexibility I gain by using my moped enables me to perform my job in the way that suits me best. I always feel good when I can moped around town.
During the 10-minute ride to work, my mind starts its usual wandering. My calendar at the outset of the week gives only a vague notice of what I can expect by week's end. If this week is quiet, I hope to attend a few sessions of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).
They have a session planned on pyramid schemes. Pyramid games are very popular in the poorer areas of D.C. and many complaints are filed by those who spend money to get rich quick and don't. We recently obtained a consent decree to change the practices of a firm with a twist on a pyramid. I want to expain our agreement to the NAAG members.
I never get to the meetings. Too busy interviewing prospective consumer educators for a staff position. Also get bogged down in preparing press releases and invitations for some hearings on employment agencies and career counseling firms.
At an early morning meeting, we learn that CETA cutbacks would mean 60 percent reduction in our staff in 10 weeks. Glup! How do you investigate fraud without investigators? Things get worse. By 4 p.m., almost all of our CETA workers get two-week notice letters.
The evening is spent marking the last few papers of my midterm exam. I'm pleased with the results. For the first time in my teaching career, I feel like I've organized the course properly and the students are learning at least the things I feel are important.
On my way to work, I pass an empty framing and art shop which had had several complaints against it in the last year. The first thing that crosses my mind is that I can expect numerous complaints against the owner in hours. Tuesday
Tuesdays, as usual, I devote to resolving my own caseload of complaints. I send out a $3,000 check to six British students who rented a car and watched it burn with all their possessions inside. I obtain a settlement offer from a home inprovement contractor who ran into troubles and stopped work. The $2,000 offer is less than the consumers might get in court, but certainly more than they thought they'd get without going to court. I adivse them to take the money. They'll think about it.
I obtain a promise from a carpet sales company to cease displaying or distributing a brochure which pictures a carpet and a price list. Unfortunately, the carpets are not available at that price. I'll accept the agreement and drop the case.
Several other cases remain unresolved after fruitless attempts and arguments.
I continue to investigate a defunct career conseling firm. It had accepted new clients and signed several six-year future service contracts up to 10 days before they folded. The consumers may be out $2,000 each.
My fiance calls from her camping trip through California. Despite my somewhat successful day, her call is its highlight.
I start to prepare mentally for my evening class. Tonight's topic is warranties. I've given this lecture so often to consumers that I do it without notes. Anyway, since I'll go over the exam, tonight's class will be a short lecture. After class I stop by the library and do some personal research. Wednesday
The day starts off at a fast pace and never slows down.
At 9 a.m., three consumers who have been defrauded by the same home improvement contractor file in to give their statements to the detective from the Consumer Fraud Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department. These consumers gave from $750 to $10,000 to the contractor and never saw him again. We have another 10 less severe cases against the same contractor. I get frustrated with the amount of time it takes to halt characters like this, but I am convinced we will be able to shortly.
The first art shop complaint comes in. The consumer left some $9,000 worth of art works on consignment. She is panicky. I tell her we'll do what we can and feel rather weak in that promise. By the end of the day some 25 complaints are filed.
At 1 p.m., I receive an urgent call from the Hill. Our budget hearing set for 2:30 has been moved to 1:20. The director is out addressing a group. I hop on my moped and head for the Hill. Fortunately, before our time arrives, the director does. I feel relieved. I can talk program all day, but I'm not comfortable with budget terms or numbers.
The hearings go remarkably well. Congressman Dixon expresses an interest in our investigations. I go into a 20-minute monologue on our investigations, recent successes and plans for the future. Dixon looks impressed with our efforts. He says he'll recommend us for the full request including three additional slots.
Wednesday night is racquetball. I play hard and well. I lose anyway. Thursday
Subpoenaed to testify in a court case, I sit and wait. Three hours later, I still haven't been called bu the case has been dismissed. The consumer wins his case by establishing that the home improvement contractor wasn't licensed to perform the work. The consumer gets a total refund even though about 80 percent of the work was completed. Since we counseled the consumer on his rights, I feel we helped him win his money back. I wish more consumers knew how to use the law.
I stop by the police department to check on what they can do concerning the missing art shop merchant. They are interested but don't have resources to devote to the matter.
I go to the mayor's communications office to drop off our press release on the upcoming hearings on employment agencies and career counseling firms. They can have it out to the public in five days.
I stop by the office of an attorney who had left her art to be framed at the shop. We talk strategy and I try to enlist her as a pro bono attorney for the case. She'll help. We contemplate attaching the warehouse where we suspect the art work is being held.
My 3 o'clock appointment, with a fellow who advertised a "miracle roach killer," collected $6.95 from 250 D.C. consumers and didn't have a product to sell, has been canceled. I need the time for myself, but I'm disgusted by the slowness in the respondent's repaying consumers. I prepare to send the consent decree we signed to the corporation counsel for enforcement.
My 4:30 meeting with a former vice president of the defunct career counseling firm provides several ideas and a lead.
Thursday night, my condominium association meets. I file my own consumer grievance. I guess my work has refined my skills; My apartment is being completely redone by the developer. Friday
I'm exhausted, but it's Friday.
At 9 a.m., I meet to discuss disclosures and warranties for home buyers in the District. We want to find a way to protect buyers from purchasing homes "as is" unless the defects are either obvious or disclosed.
From 10:30 to 11:30, I address a small group of volunteers who will be going into the community to teach those on fixed incomes how to use credit wisely and how to deal with credit problems. I use my university lecture on banking and credit. I'm getting good at it. This is about the 10th time this year I've given this class.
The landlord of the art shop returns my call. He evicted the shop owner because he wanted the space. The landlord thinks the owner took most of the goods in the shop but a few things remain. One of my paralegals is dispatched to pick up whatever is there.
At 2 o'clock, two lawyers arrive representing a health spa whose contract does not comply with D.C. law. We discuss the necessary changes and they agree to counsel their cleint.
We're interrupted by a call from my fiance still hiking around Big Sur. I can't talk. I feel miserable about it.
I resume my morning talk on home purchase warranties. After the meeting, my senior attorney announces his resignation. Now I'll have no legal staff and a handful of investigators. What's next?
At 5 o'clock, the owner of the art shop calls because he heard I was looking for him. After we discuss his predicament for a while, he agrees to bring in all the art work he has to our office to distribute to consumers. A perfect solution.
I start the weekend feeling useful and exhausted.