Because the bureaucracy took so long to act, the District of Columbia government will wind up paying Oatha Batts around $60,000, or 4 1/2 years salary, for doing nothing while he awaited the outcome of his appeal to the city and federal government.
Batts, fired from the police force in 1973 on grounds of inefficiency, will receive full back pay as the result of the recent decision by the Civil Service Commission that the police department had discriminated against him.
Batts said he received about $16,000 in pay during his suspension and is owed about another $44,000. During his period of dismissal Batts' salary has risen, through raises, to about $15,000 a year.
Exactly why it took so long to process Batts' appeal is not clear. Several parts of the city government became involved in reviewing the appeal, and several lapses in time cannot be explained. Some of these involve the police department's review of the case, and the department, through a spokesman, has declined to discuss any part of the case, including the time it took to process the appeal.
Batts claims the department deliberately delayed his appeal as part of its discrimination. He found it difficult to take another job, he said, because his appeal was pending, and although the department paid him about $16,000 during part of the suspension, he eventually ran out of money.
Batts said he asked the department to put him to work as a clerk while he awaited the appeals process, but that he had been refused. Former chief of police Maurice J. Cullinane, in a letter to Batts, said that having Batts working in any capacity would be detrimental to the reputation of the department.
"I'm not bitter," Batts said the other day. "People are taught bigotry; it's not their fault."
Following his conviction before a police trial board in November 1973, Batts appealed to Mayor Walter E. Washington.
The mayor upheld the police department opinion in April 1976.
During the 2 1/2-year interval, months passed while Batts awaited the transcrip of his trial board hearing, a preliminary appeal to city administrator Julian Dugas, and for the mayor to wade through a backlog of cases, according to Martin Schaller, executive secretary to the mayor.
The Washington Post reported in early 1976 that some officers had been waiting longer than five years for the mayor to resolve their appeals. Schaller said recently that only two cases are now outstanding, none more than three months old. "I promised myself not to let the (backlog) happen anymore," Schaller said.
Following the mayor's decision Batts appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which took two more years to reach a conclusion. Much of that time was wasted waiting for the city to provide necessary information on the case, according to the federal appeals officer, Michael H. Hoxie.
"The District government is the worst - it's just very difficult to get information from them," Hoxie said. "In waited 18 months for the city to pro-this case it was ridiculous."
The commission claimed they vied a proper report on an investigation on Batts' claims of discrimination. A city spokesman said city records indicate the response time was closer to nine months.