If there’s any institution out there that gay activists aren’t going to give the benefit of the doubt, it’s the Washington Nationals.
Put aside the general homophobia surrounding professional sports—let alone a professional sport where a player (Mets catcher Mike Piazza) once held a press conference to declare his heterosexuality. Just consider where the Nats will be playing seven months from now: on a patch of land that was once home to the District’s only real gay nightlife district—a collection of businesses the District has had serious trouble relocating.
So when Philip Pannell took a look at a document spelling out the selection criteria for Nats contractors, he noticed something missing right away: A memo outlining the Nats’ “Vendor Procurement Program,” which was circulated at a September community meeting, describes a five-point affirmative-action policy. The last point promises that the team will not “discriminate against any employee or applicant…because of race, color, ethnic status, religion, sex, age, national origin, disabled veteran status, Vietnam era veteran status, or disability.” The document also says that the policy “is a significant business, public relations, and legal issue for the Nationals.”
That’s for sure, especially if Pannell has something to say about it. Missing from the list of protections, Pannell noticed, was any mention of sexual orientation.
Legally speaking, the omission doesn’t mean a whole lot, considering that anti-gay discrimination is prohibited under the D.C. Human Rights Act, which covers all of the criteria in the Nats’ policy, plus sexual orientation, marital status, personal appearance, familial status, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, and place of residence or business. And the employment policy for the team itself, as listed on its Web site, includes sexual orientation as a protected class.
But the policy still rankled Pannell, a former city human-rights commissioner. “I would say some people are still smarting at the fact that the gay entertainment district was a casualty of the stadium,” he says.
At the meeting, he explained his concerns to Gregory McCarthy, the Nationals’ top local-affairs liaison. Pannell subsequently followed up in an e-mail and asked for a meeting. “It is no secret that Major League Baseball has a history of being one of the most homophobic enterprises in our country and the omission of sexual orientation in its printed anti-discrimination policy may not be a simple omission,” Pannell wrote. “Having a Gay Day once a year is not enough.”
McCarthy, a former aide to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, responded that he’d asked the team’s general counsel to “ensure that our policies reflect local law (and local sensibilities)” and asked for more time to formulate a response.
While the Nats were formulating, Pannell & Co. were fulminating. The longtime activist took his concerns about Nats contracting to an Oct. 15 meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), the city’s most active gay lobbying group, also got involved, and At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown contacted the Nationals on the Stein club’s behalf.
Rick Rosendall, the GLAA’s VP for political affairs, says the vendor business is “an opportunity for the Nats to show their respect for, and connection with, the D.C. community of which they are a part.” Adding sexual orientation and other categories covered by the Human Rights Act to the Nats’ policy, he says, “would be an affirmative way to show their commitment to and embrace of the District’s policy.”
McCarthy referred LL’s questions on the matter to Nationals spokesperson Chartese Burnett, who says that team President Stan Kasten had called Stein Club leaders on Friday to ease their concerns. “They did have a conversation, and it was a positive one,” she says.
Mario Acosta-Velez, president of the Stein Club, says he was “satisfied with the conversation and the tone of the conversation.” Kasten, however, gave him the same line McCarthy had given Pannell: gotta run it by the lawyers first.
So more than a month after Pannell first registered his displeasure, there’s still nothing in writing. “I haven’t seen anything yet, so I still feel we’re not where we should be,” Acosta-Velez says. “Considering how that impacted the community, it’s important to us that the issue be addressed.”
Pannell, too, wants to see ink on paper. “It should be fairly simple for them to say they’re going to follow the law,” he says.
Defraud the D.C. Government, Keep Your Job
On Sept. 28, the attorney general’s office charged Dr. Charles Hall with more than a dozen counts of defrauding the city. Hall, medical director for the Department of Health’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA), was accused of essentially double-billing hours for that job and a position with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency on 18 separate occasions from 2004 to 2006, making off with more than $12,000.
In a press release, Attorney General Linda Singer said that Hall “took advantage of the government and the taxpayers.”
Wrong tense, Linda: Hall is still on the job, three weeks after the charges came down.
An APRA employee says that Hall was back on the job the Monday after the charges were announced and that he has been involved in the day-to-day operations of the agency’s D.C. General campus detox clinic as recently as last week, phoning in orders from APRA headquarters on First Street NE.
Yes, LL is aware of that “innocent until proven guilty” maxim of American jurisprudence, but under the District’s employment regulations, agencies are empowered to place on leave employees who have “been indicted on, arrested for, or convicted of any crime…that bears a relationship to his or her position.”
Hall, who’s worked for the District since 1991 and currently draws a salary of $147,000, did not respond to a message LL left on his office phone. On several occasions last week, an APRA receptionist told LL that Hall was in a meeting; this week, a receptionist said Hall was “traveling.”
The health department did not respond to LL’s inquiries about Hall by press time; that might have something to do with Director Gregg A. Pane getting shitcanned late last week. Mayoral spokesperson
Carrie Brooks confirmed that Hall is still on the city payroll.
Singer is none too happy with Hall’s continuing employment. “We are very concerned by this situation, and our office has contacted APRA to provide any assistance they might need,” says Melissa Merz, Singer’s spokesperson.
• “President Jarvis told me, ‘This is not a roast,’” said WRC-TV newsman Tom Sherwood, warming up as MC at the Oct. 17 Southeastern University Gala at the Hilton Washington.
The yearly benefit for the private school in Southwest D.C., headed by former Ward 4 Councilmember Charlene Drew Jarvis, is well-known as a forum for elected officials, business bigwigs, media types, and other big shots to loosen up and show their sense of humor. Sometimes they get a little too loose: Last year, Sherwood got in a bit of trouble for referring to himself as “not as white as Jack Evans [but] blacker than Harold Brazil.” The MC alluded to having to write an apology letter to Brazil for last year’s act.
Sherwood, in fact, did keep things less controversial this year, with the lowest jabs reserved for safe fodder like Idaho Sen. Larry Craig. The best material was left to others, who were happy to roast D.C.’s most roastable character, Marion S. Barry Jr.
The evening’s highlight was a skit lampooning the distribution of those coveted low-numbered license plates—Channel 9 anchor Derek McGinty played the low-tag czar, and among his supplicants was former Mayor Williams. (Williams, of course, was not included on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s low-tag list earlier this year.) Williams’ begging—“Remember me? Tony Williams? We’re talking…executive baldness”—didn’t get very far with McGinty.
His retort: “Only Marion Barry gets to be mayor-for-life and gets a low tag.”
After that was a Top 10 list of sorts—“If D.C. became a state”—given by a number of other D.C. councilmembers, plus Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. Gandhi had a lame joke about how the state bird would be a cockatoo because it’s “always talking but never really saying anything”—you know, like a chief financial officer! Ward 6’s Tommy Wells saved the groaner:
“I thought the state bird would be the Anthony Williams, because of its
propensity to fly.”
At-Large Councilmember David Catania also got some laughs: “The state drug czar is.…I’m not even touching that one.”
Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray took to the podium for a valedictory speech that promised to be low on laughs, but the chairman read a selection of straight-from-the-dais quotations from his colleagues.
His closer: “Marion said, ‘Mr. Chairman, I want everyone to know that everyone should get a piece of the rock,’” Gray recounted. “True story!”
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