Summersgill details negligence, unresponsiveness at HIV/AIDS Administration
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HIV/AIDS Administration, DC Dept. of Health

GLAA on AIDS and Public Health

Summersgill details negligence, unresponsiveness at HIV/AIDS Administration


May 15, 2003

Chairman Allen, members of the Council, and Fellow Residents:

Good afternoon, my name is Bob Summersgill, I am the treasurer and immediate past president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC. We are the oldest continuously active gay rights organization in the country.

We are pleased to be able to testify today on the performance of the HIV/AIDS Administration. Unfortunately, we don't have anything positive to say. If HAA is being run for the public good, HAA's management has done all that they can to dissuade us - and the public - of their good intentions.

HAA lacks a basic openness that we should have from any government agency. Three years ago, GLAA was told by numerous AIDS service organizations that not all of HAA's federal funds could be accounted for. HAA initially would not respond to GLAA's questions about how money was being spent. We made a formal Freedom of Information Act request, and received partial information over a period of 19 months prompted by numerous press accounts, testimony and letters. HAA did everything possible to keep from divulging which organizations received funds and what those funds were for. GLAA even discussed suing HAA for violating FOIA, but eventually they grudgingly complied. However, whenever we testified before the Council using information provided by HAA, they denied the accuracy of the information. Consequently, we doubt that HAA has in fact complied with the law, and we are left to wonder why they would withhold or deliberately distort information about grants that otherwise should be something to brag about.

A subsequent FOIA request for basic information about HAA staff was also late, incomplete and inaccurate. The information was delivered only in order to meet a journalist's deadline. However, even at that they failed.

AIDS service organizations regularly report that they haven't been able to receive funding for contracts, and a few have told us that they are in jeopardy of cutting staff and eliminating desperately needed services. One instance - which you will certainly hear more of today - has resulted in cutting funds to Building Futures, after HAA indicated that contracts would be continued. 78 people with AIDS were left 3 months behind in their rent and facing eviction, solely due to incompetence or worse at HAA.

HAA's management has been negligent in the Washington Teacher's Union $5 million dollar embezzlement scheme. HAA officials failed to notice that Michael Martin and Erroll Alderman were running a business out of their DC government offices, using government computers and fax machines. Martin was the Chief of Operations, so his activities should have been obvious to the top levels of HAA management.

Even after an FBI raid of Martin's HAA office and made it unmistakable that Martin and Alderman were using their office computers and fax machine for a business, HAA took no action against them. The FBI seized Martin's computer, nearly 100 disks, tax records and phone numbers. Running a business from your DC Government office, computer, phone, etc. should be grounds for immediate termination for cause. Administrative leave pending an investigation would be a minimal, but acceptable, response. As this was not done, Martin and Alderman were clearly being protected by HAA management. That protection could only have occurred with HAA Director Ron Lewis' approval.

The business, Expressions Unlimited, was found by the American Federation of Teachers' audit to have charged $483,543 to the WTU but the Union was unable to determine what, if anything, the business provided. Martin has since confessed that the business was strictly a criminal enterprise to help embezzle money from the WTU. The FBI and federal prosecutors subsequently confirmed the lack of a legitimate business purpose.

Despite the evidence that Martin was part of a criminal conspiracy, HAA took no action and left Martin, the Chief of Operations, in control of HAA's credit card.

It was only when Martin decided to quit his job and plead guilty to conspiracy to launder money that his time with HAA came to an end. He was never placed on administrative leave. He was left in charge of the government credit card and left in a position to do great damage to HAA and negatively impact services to people with AIDS.

Inexplicably, Alderman has been allowed to retain his $54,000 a year job. Alderman should have been, and still should be, put on administrative leave until his involvement in this criminal conspiracy can be fully investigated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Alderman appears to be the only publicly named conspirator that has been able to retain his job. He should be fired immediately, and Ron Lewis needs to explain why he protected Martin and Alderman despite their obvious connection to the looting of the Washington Teachers' Union. While employee rules make it difficult to remove employees, administrative leave and restriction of the credit card would seem minimally prudent. It is not too late to fire Errol Alderman.

GLAA has been concerned for several years about the problems at HAA and we have tried to bring the problems to light. Federal audits of Ryan White funds across the country have been in the news and we have brought this to the attention of public officials to no avail. We had hoped that HAA, the Administration and the Council would have taken advantage of this advance notice and insured that HAA is in shape for the audits. Unfortunately, since GLAA raised the issue, HAA has become the subject of the aforementioned FBI investigation, two DC Inspector Generals investigations, an Office of Human Rights investigation, and Chief Financial Officer Gandhi is scrutinizing the credit card usage. We understand that the US Department of Health and Human Services has finally begun the DC audits. Unfortunately, DC officials did not work to correct the problems at HAA prior to the federal audit and criminal investigation.

The incompetence of HAA management has seriously damaged HAA's and the City's already battered reputation. It is time for a complete change in leadership at HAA.

Thank you, I am available to answer any questions that you may have.

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