Attorney General's Office Gazette: March 2013

Attorney General's Office Gazette

March 2013

OAG opens new office

New 6th Floor Digs for 200 OAG Staffers

Mayor Vincent C. Gray visited OAG in early January to celebrate the opening of long-awaited new quarters on the 6th floor of 441 4th St., N.W., to replace a dingy, cramped, and crowded work space. The offices feature new carpeting, higher and better lighted ceilings, conference rooms, and reception areas. About 200 child support attorneys, civil litigators, appellate lawyers, and other staff were reunited in a space that Attorney General Nathan said “is much more conducive to collegiality and effective legal representation.” 

Mayor Gray called the new office space “another example of effective interagency collaboration and cooperation.” The Mayor credited OAG’s Support Services Division as well as D.C.’s Department of General Services and Office of the Chief Technology Officer for planning and completing the renovation project, which was finished two months ahead of schedule. It culminated in a seven-year, $5.3 million project to modernize 163,000 square feet of office space in the building.

New conference rooms will enhance OAG’s ability to provide legal representation in the digital age. Attorneys will be able to hold video and audio teleconferences with witnesses and other parties outside of D.C. Three nursing stations were added to provide working mothers a comfortable place to be with their infants in privacy.

OAG employees who played key roles in the renovation were Marjorie Hogan and Tia Williams, program support assistants; Lyndell Bush, support services specialist; Sherry Roberts, supervisory administrative specialist; Lawrence Nelson, chief information officer, and Tarifah Coaxum, chief administrative officer.

OAG Employees of the Month

Each month, OAG names Employees of the Month for exemplary work. For January 2013, the honor went to Annette Matthews, Support Enforcement Specialist, Intake 2, Child Support Services Division.

For February 2013, the winners were Kim McDaniel, Director of Equal Employment Opportunity, Recruitment and Hiring, and Rebecca Mitchell, Recruitment and Hiring Liaison, for their work in recruiting our 19 new Ruff Fellows (see below.) Congratulations to the Employees of the Month!

New Ruff Fellow Class Starts

A new class of 19 Charles (Chuck) F.C. Ruff Fellows has begun work at OAG. The Fellows, 2012 graduates of  George Washington University Law School and Georgetown Univeristy Law Center, are paid with a combination of funds from the D.C. government and the schools. They were chosen by the Attorney General’s Office in a competition among top graduates of each school. 

Fellows from George Washington and their assignments are Patrick Corcoran, Public Safety Division; Alicia Cullen, Public Interest Division; Matthew Lane, Civil Litigation Division; Caliandra Lanza-Weil, Civil Litigation Division; Julia Maus, Office of Solicitor General; Daniel Mayer, Legal Counsel Division; Ali Naini, Civil Litigation Division; David Rabe, Commercial Division; Lauren Sharrock, Family Services Division; and James Vietti, Public Interest Division.

Fellows from Georgetown and their assignments are Charles Coughlin, Civil Litigation Division; Gregory Cumming, Office of Solicitor General; Karen Hu, Personnel, Labor, and Employment Division; Joshua Karpoff, Public Safety Division; Jacob Narva, Attorney General’s immediate office;  Robert Rich, Public Interest Division; Portia Roundtree, Civil Litigation Division; Daniel Snow, Public Safety Division; and Argatonia Weatherington, Public Safety Division.

The first class of 11 Ruff Fellows began working in the Attorney General’s Office in March 2012 and are serving for a year. Seven of the Fellows have been hired for permanent OAG jobs.

The Fellowships were created to provide the District with legal help and to promote public interest legal work. They are named for Charles F. C. Ruff, who served as District of Columbia Corporation Counsel (the position now known as Attorney General) from 1995 to 1997.  

New and Departed OAG Employees

New employees since Jan. 1

Brett Baer, CLD; Leah Brown, DHR; Adrianne Doyle, DISB OGC; Renae Flemmings, CSSD; Althea Geletka, PSD; Jonathan Hall, PSD; Darnell Ingram, CLD; Yair Inspektor, DCPS OGC; Patricia Cornwell Johnson, DHR OGC; Gregory Pace, FSD; Shanna Scott, CSSD; Nakeasha Sanders Small, DPW OGC; Joshua Turner, LCD; Ruth Wilcox, CSSD

Departed employees since Jan. 1

Kelli Cheek, NVS; Avril Luongo, PSD; Nathaniel Massaquoi, CSSD; Antoinette Moore, SSD;  Isabel Ledezma Pacheco, DCRA OGC

"Elected Attorney General" Bill Sent to D.C. Council

The D.C. Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety  will consider on March 26 a proposal by Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan to make OAG an agency fully independent of mayoral control under a measure approved by D.C. voters in 2010. Mayor Gray urged the Council to act promptly so that changes are set before the 2014 electoral process begins.

The main purpose of the bill is to ensure that the Mayor controls budget and policy choices of the executive branch while the Attorney General controls litigation and legal opinions.

The proposal would transfer the chain of command for general counsel offices in executive-branch agencies from reporting to the Attorney General to reporting to their agencies' directors.

It also would shift the OAG Child Support Services Division to the D.C. Department of Human Services.

It proposes a small new office of lawyers reporting to the Mayor that would coordinate across agencies on legal issues and lawyer training.

If enacted, the bill could result in shifting about 360 of 740 positions out of OAG to agencies under control of the Mayor: 220 in the Child Support Services Division and 140 in General Counsels offices.

OAG Resolves Major School, Real Estate Cases

Prominent cases involving school transportation for special needs students, Union Station, and the Skyland development in Ward 7 were among those handled in recent months by the Office of Attorney General.

On December 19, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman signed a dismissal order in the 17-year-old case Petties v. D.C. that ended federal court supervision over the District’s special-education transportation program and special education payments. The class action lawsuit was filed seeking reliable transportation for the District’s 3,200 special education students and timely payments to nonpublic schools and related service providers funded by the District. Attorney General Nathan said that “ending federal court supervision over our local functions has been among our highest priorities.” Lawyers who worked on the case included Ellen Efros, Chad Copeland, Virginia Crisman, Henning Vent, Dan Rezneck, and Robert Utiger.

A major tax case involving Union Station was settled on Dec. 31. Union Station Investco LLC and Union Station Redevelopment Corp. paid D,C. $7,516,600 in taxes for 2008 through 2012. The companies had argued that they were not required to pay the District’s “Possessory Interest Tax” because Union Station is owned by the federal government. OAG won a court ruling last year that the firms are not exempt from the tax. The case was handled by Susan Longstreet, David Fisher, William D. Burke, Edward ("Ted") Henneberry, and Richard Wilson of OAG’s Commercial Division.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals in December effectively brought to an end litigation that has held up the Skyland Shopping Center redevelopment in Ward 7.  D.C. ended up saving  more than $9 million in land costs for the project. A three-judge panel upheld a jury verdict that rejected a demand by Mary Rose Greene for nearly $10 million for her property. Trial work in the land cases were handled by William D. Burk and Edward (“Ted”) Henneberry of the Commercial Division, and, supervised by Susan Longstreet. Carl J. Schifferle of the Office of Solicitor General handled the appeal, working with Solicitor General Todd S. Kim and Deputy Solicitor General Donna M. Murasky.

This is the first issue of the Attorney General’s Office Gazette (AGOG). We revived the OAG newsletter to ensure that our 740 employees in 10 far-flung divisions and agency General Counsels offices are informed about major OAG accomplishments of our lawyers and staff, policy changes, and new programs.

We congratulate Grant Moy of the Public Interest Division for suggesting the newsletter's name. Thanks to everyone else for participating in the competition. 

Please send suggestions for content in future issues to Ted Gest, our public information officer.

We hope you enjoy our new publication.

Irvin B. Nathan
Attorney General

OAG Award Ceremony Set for March 19

All OAG employees are invited to the annual Employee Incentive Awards Ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the Old City Council Chambers on the First Floor at 441 41th St., N.W.
The event is coordinated by Nadine Wilburn, chief counsel in the Personnel, Labor & Employment Division.

D.C., AFGE Local 1403 Settlement on Work Conditions, Pay

The District of Columbia and OAG’s attorneys’ union, AFGE Local 1403, reached a settlement in principle that will resolve outstanding litigation and enable the parties to sign successor collective bargaining agreements addressing both working conditions and compensation for fiscal years 2011 through 2013.  Subject to the D.C. Council’s approval, current bargaining unit attorneys will receive a retroactive base salary increase for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.  Both sides are pleased that they were able to resolve their impasse without further third-party intervention.    

New OAG Website Due This Month

A redesigned website for the Office of Attorney General is due to be launched this month. The design is one being provided for all D.C. agencies and will feature on its home page major OAG programs that deal with D.C. residents. All OAG divisions are represented on the site, several with new photographs illustrating their work. 

Attorney General Nathan Featured in Washington Lawyer Magazine

Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan was featured in a five-page interview published in the March 2013 issue of Washington Lawyer, the magazine of the District of Columbia Bar. The interview covers his personal and legal background as well as the many challenges tackled by OAG, including legislative and other priorities for 2013. The intervew can be found here

OAG Joins Mayor to Talk About Impaired Driving Laws

Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Attorney General Nathan appeared with OAG staff members and other city officials at D.C.’s new Consolidated Forensic Lab on Jan. 9 to discuss improvements in the District’s laws and procedures to handle impaired driving cases. The mayor signed two bills and discussed a state-of-the-art program for breath testing. The new bills complement a law effective last summer that raised maximum penalties for some impaired drivers.

One new provision signed into law allows courts to require some first offenders in impaired-driving cases to use ignition-interlock devices. Last fall, OAG won the WRAPPY Award for Public Service from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) for its support of the organization’s mission. The award was given for OAG’s work in developing last year’s new law on impaired driving.