Joseph P. Yeldell, the suspended director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, "may have" improperly helped two relatives obtain jobs in his department, according to an interim city report on DHR hiring released yesterday by Mayor Walter E. Washington.
The report prepared by he mayor's Office of Municipal Audit and Inspection, found two instances in which persons related to Yeldell apparently got preferential hiring treatment because of their relation to Yeldell.
But the 23-page report stopped short of flatly asserting that Yeldell's action violated city personnel regulations. Instead, it recommended that the D.C. Corporation Counsel determine if the evidence found was sufficient to indicate that personnel rules were broken.
Yeldell called a press conference shortly the report was disclosed, to declare that he had done nothing wrong.
The report "clearly indicates," Yeldell said, "that the statements I have made previously - that I have not been engaging in the practice of simply going out and finding jobs of everyone - is indeed a valid statement."
Mayor Washington emphasized that the report said he will not make any final determination on Yeldell's actions until he receives at least three more reports from the auditor's office.
"I want to maintain an open mind in evaluating his situation," the mayor said at an afternoon press conference. The mayor refused to say what he would do if any of the accusations against Yeldell were proved to be true. "I'm not going to be pushed into a position of projecting about what may or may not come," he said.
The investigation were prompted by a series of newspaper reports that began Nov. 18 in the Washington Star, which said that at least four members of Yeldell's family worked for DHR, in possible violation of city personnel regulations. In subsequent reports, The Star and other news organizations reported that more than two dozen persons who were either friends or relatives of Yeldell had been improperly hired by DHR.
Since the first reports of alleged hiring abuses. The Washington Post has reported that Yeldell may have improperly used the agency' leasing and contracting authority. Those allegations have still to be investigated by the mayor's office of Municipal Audit and Inspection before the mayor makes a final determination on Yeldell's status.
In addition to that investigation, there are four other investigations of Yeldell and hiring, leasing and contracting in DHR, including one by the U.S. Attorney's Office here. The other investigations are being undertaken by the D.C. City COuncil, the D.C. auditor and the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethnics. None of those investigators have yet announced findings.
The report released yesterday covered findings of investigations of only first seven persons alleged in news reports to have been hire improperly.
The report concluded that the hiring of Frederick B. Senior, a GS-14 computer system analyst and first cousin of Yeldell, may have been improper because investigators were told that it was Yeldell who introduced Senior to a DHR subordinate who subsequently hired Senior.
The second possible violation discosed in the report was the hiring of Paula G. Fisher, a second cousin of Yeldell, as a GS-11 mental health coordinator.
As a second cousin, Mrs. Fisher's relationship to Yeldell is not close enough to be covered under the city's nepotism regulations. But because Yeldell had initially handled Mrs. Fisher's application and sent it to subordinates for consideration, she may have recieved "preferential treatment . . . beyond the normal handling in the DHR process," the report said.
Those relatives covered by the nepotism part of the personnel regulation are first cousins, nephews, nieces, sons, duaghters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, fathers, mothers, in-laws, half brothers, half sisters and step relatives.
The apparent violation of personnel regulations in the hiring of Senior was based primarily on a statement from Robert Gardner, the former head of DHR's payments assistance administration, who interviewed and hired Senior.
Gardner said in his statement that Yeldell introduced Senior to him in the fall of 1973 and provided space in Yeldell 's office ot interview Senior. Gardner said in the statement that Yeldell "applied no pressure on me to select Mr. Senior."
Yeldell, at his press conference yesterday, denied that he had implied that Gardner had given the statement out of bitterness because Yeldell had removed Gardner as head of the payments assistance administration in DHR. He was replaced by Jacqueline Johnson, one of Yeldell's most trusted aides.
Yeldell said that Gardner had not made the statement to David Legg, director of the Office of Municipal Audit and Inspection, until last Friday, one day after Yeldell had been critical of Gardner's performance as payments administration head.
"It's rather unfortunate that the one person who came forward at the 11th hour is the man I dismissed for being untruthful," Yeldell said. "I can very specifically deny that I introduced Mr. Senior to Mr. Gardner."
Gardner was head of the payments administration in December, 1973, when the department began to develop a backlog of welfare applications that eventually resulted in court charging DHR with not promptly processing welfare applications.
Gardner was not available for immediate comment. Legge said, however, that Gardner had called the auditor's office Friday and said that he had been able to recall that Yeldell introduced him to Senior. In previous interviews, Legge said, Gardner had been unable to remember who had made the introduction.
The hiring of five other persons mentioned in initial news stories was found not to have violated city regulations, the reports said.
Diane P. Thomas, Yeldell's niece, was hired as a GS-5 information clerk in DHR, Yeldell reviewed the request for personnel action and approved tha filling of the position that Mrs. Thomas was given, the report said, but Yeldell played no improper part in the hiring.
Eloise S. Turner, a GS-13 child development specialist, is the former wife of Senior, Yeldell's cousin. But she had not yet married him at the time she was hired, the report concluded, and there was no evidence to indicate preferential treatment.
Joseph B. Turner, a GS-4 clerk who sources said was Yeldell's brother-in-law, was determined by the auditor to be of no relationship to Yeldell and the recipient of no preferential treatment when he was hired in 1972.
The news reports had also mentioned the hiring on June 3, 1974, of William T. and Judy Donnell, who are the son-in-law and daughter of Cleveland Dennard, the president of Washington Technical Institute. Neither was hired improperly, the report said.