Soon after becoming the District's public health commissioner last year, Dr. Andrew D. McBride hired an old college friend as a $245-a-day, full-time consultant -- even though the man lives in Minnesota and maintained his full-time job there at Carleton College.
Charles E. Dickerson was awarded a consultant's contract on a noncompetitive basis and was paid a total of $38,788 for seven months of work from last September to early April, according to city records and officials. During most of that period, records show, Dickerson billed the District for 40-hour work weeks.
In addition, according to a Department of Human Services audit, McBride ran up $4,800 in bills on his government car phone in the first six months of this year, mainly because of 202 calls made to Dickerson's Minnesota home and office. McBride sometimes called Dickerson on the car phone two or three times a day, records show.
Dickerson, who has a PhD in history, submitted a four-page "final consultative report" that tells McBride not to work so hard and gives 21 general recommendations, including "the possible phasing out of selected programs" without stating which ones.
The contract and documents submitted under it were obtained by The Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act.
The report, sprinkled with sayings and mottoes such as "Physician heal thyself," warns at one point that bureaucracies are "doubled-edged swords."
"Therefore, consider adopting a patient but tenacious, a tolerant but determined, a sympathetic but not empathetic posture toward the CPH Commission of Public Health bureaucracy," Dickerson advised. "Realize that while the structure may sap your energy in order to do, it is conversely very likely to consume the energy of another in order to undo."
In a later report summarizing his consulting work, prepared in response to inquiries from The Post, Dickerson said that in advising McBride on bureaucratic reform "there was major consideration of the tenets of Confucianism."
He also quotes a number of other philosophers -- as well as former baseball player Yogi Berra -- in the highly theoretical, 35-page supplemental report he has entitled "A Tiger by the Tail or a Ship by the Helm."
Dickerson also developed a proposal for the Kuwaiti government to invest in economic development in the District. The plan was submitted unofficially to the Kuwaiti Embassy here.
An embassy spokeswoman said it was not seriously considered and city officials say it is not being pursued.
McBride said in a recent interview that he relied on Dickerson for "an outside perspective" and as a "sounding board" in the early days of his administration. "He has a proclivity for getting into a topic from all angles," McBride said, adding that Dickerson is "familiar with issues of minorities."
McBride and Dickerson knew each other at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where they were both members of the class of 1965. Dickerson said that the commissioner chose him for the job because McBride knew him and his work.
"It's part of a network. Some of the guys who went to school with us went into public management," he said. McBride "asked if I'd help him get started," saying he wanted a fresh view, Dickerson said.
"I consider him a colleague. I can't deny he is a friend as well," McBride said. "We got our money's worth from Charles Dickerson."
However, David Rivers, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services and McBride's boss, said he was concerned to learn that Dickerson was still working at Carleton while he was submitting bills to the District for 40-hour work weeks.
"I could not say the city got $38,000 worth of work" from Dickerson, Rivers said, based on his review of what was submitted under the contract before The Post's inquiries. Rivers added, however, that he had not yet reviewed the summation Dickerson wrote subsequently and so had not made a final judgment.
Rivers also said he was "alarmed" at the calls to Minnesota on McBride's car phone and that he has ordered McBride to stop making long distance calls from his car. Rivers ordered an audit of the car phone records and said he would "take additional action" once it is completed.
City Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), chair of the council's Human Services Committee, said after being shown the Dickerson contract file that she has "great concerns" about it and intends to pursue it further.
The Dickerson contract is just one of $1.06 million in personal services service contracts let by the public health commission in the first 10 1/2 months of this fiscal year, according to a list compiled by DHS. Most are for specialized medical services, but some are for consulting work.
A "Determination and Findings" document required to justify the Dickerson contract was signed by Vallie D. Byrdsong, DHS contracting officer, last Nov. 1 -- nearly two months after the start of the contract period. Byrdsong said that the city had signed a "letter contract" with Dickerson earlier stating its intention to contract with him.
"We do that on an ongoing basis," Byrdsong said. "We just have a paper mill going over here and the contract has to go through a number of processes." The document states that advertising the contract for bids would be "impracticable" and that the services could not be performed by the D.C. government.
The contract was for $24,000, but Dickerson eventually was paid $38,788 without the contract being modified, said Byron Marshall, DHS deputy controller. McBride felt that "he received more services than he negotiated for," Marshall said.
Dickerson billed the District for a final payment of $16,000 for the last two months of consultant work. The bill stated the payment was for planning and evaluating a health commission summer education program and a citywide youth health institute. Under this part of the contract, Dickerson produced a five-page report outlining how participants in the youth program could be divided up, listing general areas of activity and stating 10 purposes of the program.
He also submitted a five-page evaluation and elaboration of a proposal McBride had made to the Board of Education to establish a youth drug abuse institute. This included a cover sheet, a one-page introduction, a page of definitions and a two-page outline and summary of the idea.
Dickerson is Carleton College's director of Third World Affairs and an assistant professor of history, and is involved with minority student recruitment and retention. James Shoop, Carleton director of college relations, said Dickerson goes to Washington for Carleton frequently to deal with college business but that he generally is on campus. "He's putting in his full time here," Shoop said.
Asked if he had worked a full work week for the District of Columbia, Dickerson said in an interview, "I wouldn't say it that way," but added that he had spent about 50 percent of his time in the District and 50 percent at Carleton. He put in invoices for 40-hour work weeks because "that was the way I was instructed to make out the invoices to . . . take care of expenses and travel," he said.
The contract specifies that the billing is supposed to be on a "when actually employed" basis. McBride, who as the contract administrator signed off on the contract vouchers, said he did not know about the specific billing procedures but that "I knew we were getting our money's worth."
About the frequent car phone calls, McBride said this reflected his management style because he was often in the field and would consult with Dickerson when crises arose. McBride called Dickerson's summary report "brilliant."
"Washington D.C. is not a quiet lake nor an easy flowing river; instead it is the high seas -- an ocean," Dickerson wrote in the summary report. "The man at the helm of an administrative flotilla must be a skilled, trained and experienced navigator. He must not only know the compass, the sextant and the astrolabe, he must also know the currents, the winds and the stars. He must know the sailors, know his ship and know his cargo."
While Dickerson no longer is under contract directly with the District government, he works indirectly for the city. Another city contractor, Decision Information Systems Corp. (DISC), previously Granville Corp., has hired him to work on another management study for the public health commission, Dickerson said.
McBride said he had introduced Dickerson to the Granville group but did not think Dickerson was hired on as a favor to him.