Loose Lips

Disservice Sector: Trouble for a Nonprofit Run by David Wilmot, D.C. Superlobbyist

The lobbyist as service provider: David Wilmot

Here’s a novel idea: Maybe three of the most prominent lawyers in D.C. politics shouldn’t be in charge of group homes that care for the developmentally disabled.

That modest suggestion comes after LL learned of the latest sad chapter in the story of Individual Development Inc., a non-profit whose board includes super lobbyist David Wilmot as president and chairman; longtime Marion Barry attorney Fred Cooke Jr. as vice-president; and A. Scott Bolden, the attorney who represents various friends of Still Mayor Adrian Fenty when they get crosswise with the D.C. Council, as secretary and treasurer.

IDI’s latest round of trouble includes $241,089.60 in fines for 10 violations of a settlement agreement with the city to improve services, as well as a federal complaint that alleges the unfair firing of an employee who was trying to start a union. (The non-profit, according to published accounts and the most recently available tax records, receives roughly $14 million a year in Medicaid funding to run 11 group homes and look after about 75 developmentally disabled patients.)

That IDI is in hot water again probably shouldn’t be a surprise. Mental health advocates have been asking the city for years to take action against IDI’s homes. Last year, Attorney General Peter Nickles finally did, suing IDI and citing “systematic” problems with how the nonprofit was caring for the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Nickles originally sought to have two of IDI’s homes placed in receivership, then settled with IDI after they promised to make improvements.

But IDI has not lived up to all of its part of the bargain, according to an independent monitor. According to a letter from Nickles to Wilmot, the monitor reported 25 separate violations of the settlement in March, but said that IDI was making “substantial” improvements in its care. Based on that opinion, the city decided not to impose a fine at that time. But in September, the monitor reported 10 more violations, which led to the hefty fines. (The letter does not detail what the specific violations are.)

IDI appealed the fine, to no avail. In his letter, Nickles wrote that the “recurring violations” at IDI were “disconcerting.”

Wilmot did not return calls for comment for this story, Cooke declined to comment, and Bolden has a long-standing practice of refusing to speak with LL.

Adding to IDI’s problems: 150 or so employees of IDI voted to unionize last month, against Wilmot’s wishes.

Avril Smith, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union, says IDI’s employees voted to join SEIU’s Local 500 because IDI pays its lower-level employees poorly and its management is deaf to its workers concerns. Smith says many IDI employees can barely live off the low wages, and some have to rely on Medicaid for their own health care needs. The average salary for IDI employees is $31,826 a year, according to a city report.

The low pay might explain why IDI doesn’t attract the best workers. Two former employees have been found guilty of criminal abuse of a vulnerable adult in the last three years. One hit a client; another dragged a client across the floor.

IDI active treatment specialist Gerard Bradley says most employees are conscientious and enjoy being able to help the disabled. But he says his hourly rate of $10 an hour, $11 on weekends, hasn’t changed in the three years since he started. He says employees are treated like children by management—which is to say they’re mostly ignored until they start acting up.

The SEIU filed a grievance with National Labor Relations Board on behalf of a former IDI shift supervisor, Toni Odoms, saying IDI “discriminated and retaliated” against Odoms for her pro-union activity.

Odoms was fired this summer, she says, because she used a work van for “personal use” against company rules. The problem, Odoms says, is that everyone used the work van for personal use, like going to buy lunch, and IDI was only looking for a pretext to fire her because management got wind that she was working with the union.

“That’s the only thing I can come up with, I mean really,” she says. (IDI’s CEO did not return LL’s call for comment.)

Before the union vote, Wilmot sent a letter to employees telling them it would be a mistake to vote to unionize.

“All of your wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment are subject to the uncertain process of collective bargaining with the union,” Wilmot wrote. “While of course we would bargain in good faith, I can tell you that IDI cannot and would not agree to anything that is not in the best interest of our business, our employees, and our residents.”

Odoms also complained to LL about IDI’s low pay for lower-level workers. She says that whenever workers approached management about raises, “they said they didn’t have any money.”

IDI may not have enough money to boost the weekly take-home salaries of its grunts, but it does have enough to give “excessive” pay to Wilmot and IDI’s chief executive officer, Ronald Raghunandan, according to a report from the city’s Office of Inspector General.

This summer, an IG report found that Wilmot’s $261,000 2008 salary was about $80,000 over industry standards. Wilmot’s more current salary data isn’t known, but tax records unearthed by a previous LL show that Wilmot’s annual IDI pay has gone as high $346,743, which he earned in 2003.

Sandy Bernstein of University Legal Services, a nonprofit that advocates for the mentally disabled, says Wilmot’s salary wouldn’t be such a big issue if IDI’s clients were receiving excellent care. “The people aren’t getting the gold-star treatment, but [Wilmot] is getting the gold-star salary,” she says.

(In his letter to employees warning them against unionizing, Wilmot had the chutzpah to warn of the “sky-high salaries of union officials, including the president of the SEIU Local 500, who has been paid over $100,000 per year, and the senior officials of the SEIU, including the International President who was been paid over $300,000 per year.”)

The IG’s report also raised the question of whether Wilmot’s pay wasn’t breaking city regulations, which say Wilmot’s salary was acceptable as long as Wilmot documents his time performing managerial duties for IDI. “Not only did the IDI president not personally prepare or certify his time, but during the time that our audit team was on-site at the IDI officers, the president’s Chief Executive/Financial Officer appeared to perform the day-to-day management of the company,” the report said.

How much time Wilmot actually spends running IDI was a matter of some debate last year, when IDI was in the news after Nickles’ lawsuit. Tax records and previous stories indicate that Wilmot’s hours at IDI varied from five hours a week (in 2001 when he made $105,000) to 75 hours a week (in 2006 when he made $290,000.) The most recent tax filing puts Wilmot’s hours at 40 a week.

But Wilmot’s work as one of the city’s best-paid local lobbyist makes it hard to believe Wilmot’s giving IDI eight hours a day, 5 days a week.

For the first half of this year, lobbyist disclosure records show that Wilmot has been paid $203,250 from seven different corporations or organizations, including a monthly retainer of $13,125 from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Wilmot’s making the big bucks, presumably because he’s got valuable connections to the city’s elected officials. The type of connections, according to Wilmot himself, that take a lot of work.

“People just don’t realize we live and work in this place,” Wilmot told the Washington Business Journal’s Michael Neibauer in an interview this summer at the Wilson Building. “These relationships are built from working these halls. Part of it is just picking up intelligence. People ask, ‘Why are you here? It’s because you’re here.’”

Bradley and Odoms say Wilmot has virtually nothing to do with running the company. “He’s involved in the money, other than that, he’s not involved at all,” Bradley says.

In addition to the salary issues, the IG reported that IDI couldn’t provide supporting documentation for $48,000 in payments to its board members. The IG also noted that D.C. code prohibits non-profits from making loans to its directors or officers. But IDI has done exactly that. As a former LL noted last year, Wilmot took out a $300,000 loan from IDI in 2001, around the time of his costly divorce. Bolden received a $55,000 loan a year later. By the end of 2008, the IG report says, the loans were still outstanding. Wilmot and Bolden told The Washington Post last year that the loans were being repaid.

In a written response to the IG’s audit, Wilmot says the IG’s method for determining the industry standard for executive pay was wrong, and notes that his salary was the lowest of five group home providers IG said paid excessive executive salaries. Wilmot has also said that his high pay is fair given that he worked without salary for several years when he took over IDI’s bankrupt predecessor.

Wilmot also addressed the IG’s contention that the personal loans may have been illegal, saying the city law cited was outmoded and “does not contemplate” nonprofits like IDI, which receive all their funding from collecting fees for providing services. As for the $48,000 payments to board members, “IDI believes it can support the deliverables,” Wilmot wrote.

Wilmot’s letter does not address the questions raised about how much time he actually spends at IDI.

Perhaps the bigger question is how much time the next attorney general will spend going after IDI. Wilmot hosted a fundraiser for Almost Mayor Vincent Gray during the mayoral campaign, and the Post reported that Wilmot is something of a political adviser to the next mayor.

IDI’s latest troubles make that relationship somewhat complicated, for two pesky reasons: For one thing, Gray spent much of his non-profit career advocating for the developmentally disabled. For another, he won the election thanks in no small part to support from unions. When LL asked the mayor-elect about IDI, Gray said he was “not close enough to know the details.” He said the bottom line for him will be making sure the city’s disabled get the best care possible.

And Gray also quibbled with the description of Wilmot as a political adviser. “He’s somebody I respect for the work he’s done in the city,” Gray told LL, but added that Wilmot is more of a long-time acquaintance who didn’t have any active role in the campaign.

Got a tip for LL? Send suggestions to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. Or call (202) 650-6951, 24 hours a day.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Truth Hurts

    Cooke's had lots to say over the past 10 days for Thomas (his client), mainly consisting of calling Nickles names.

    Yet today he's a "no comment" lawyer? Go figure.

  • Chris R

    What an absolute scumbag. This guy should be prosecuted and run out of town.

  • toldyouso

    @ Chris R

    No shit!!!

  • Truth Hurts

    So Wilmot receives over a quarter mill per year from a nonprofit (for which he reportedly devotes 40 hours per week). About $1,000 per day.

    At the same time, Wilmot's receiving almost one-half mill per year to lobby city officials. About $1,500 per day.

    Total for these two gigs is about $2,500 per day, $12,500 per week, $50,000 per month. But he's apoplectic at the prospect of $10 hourly employees belonging to a union.

    Does he claim to be a Democrat?

    Btw, what's up with 48k paid to board members of a nonprofit? I know hundreds of board members serving on nonprofit boards, and they don't get paid to do it.

  • Elementary Math

    WOW! Does it really cost $186,666 per year per patient to care for these people?

    ($14 million per year to care for 75 developmentally disabled citizens)

  • Typical DC BS

    @ Elementary Math: It sure does cost that much when nobody bothers to pay attention. Getting paid off the backs of disabled citizens in DC is just another example of the DC Council and Mayor's office doing the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" that any city run by one political party succumbs to.

    DC's just a smaller version of corrupt Louisiana. And people wonder why no one takes their cries of "we need to be a state" seriously.

  • SuzannePeckisback!

    Elect the Attorney General? Now we see why. Nicholes was doing his job. Can't have that! So let's do something completely disruptive to proper legal oversight...politicize it!

    I am a loyal democrat and I love the district. I said it before and it will soon show itself. Gray is a crook surrounded by crooks.

    To re-hire Suzzanne Peck and recruit Michael Lomax illustrate the flat out corruption coming "back" to town.

    That crooked and Cruel woman (Peck) is sitting in the front row of Gray events. Amazing!!!

    And, if this is correct, Wilmot has made millions bilking tax payers for services that we're not properly delivered. And, how did he get it. He is "friends" with Barry, Gray, Chavious, etc. "Working the halls". And why isn't this guy worse than same as Sinclaire Skinner? Ten years at a quarter to half a million? And, that is not even including his lobbying fees. This guy had made at least 5 million cash pimping influence.

    I wish Mayor Gray the best. I hope I am wrong. But, I am pretty sure that these old school cats are about to run into retirement with a bunch of money.

    Most of the rancor between Fenty and the council had to do with Fenty's refusal to hire their family members and pass out sweetheart deals to guys like Wilmot. And, he fired billionaire embezzelers like Peck.

    It wasn't those fucking baseball tickets.

  • Me-Bent Adrian

    SuzannePeckisback- How is any of this Gray's doing? Gray recently was elected Mayor. Who's been in power the last 4 years? I don't see how Gray can be implicated in this ridiculous scam Wilmont has executed.
    Also, where have you been these past 4 years? Certainly not in DC, otherwise you wouldn't make the idiotic statements about Fenty's relationship with the Council being caused by this. It was Fenty who ususally resorted to the Childish behavior with the Council bearing the brunt of it. Not the other way around.

    You also seem to forget that Bolden is the attorney/protector for Fenty's frat buddies/government contractors. Anything to add about this relationship. Ah, sort of sucks for you huh? You know... the fucking facts.

    As for Wilmont, I hope Gray drops the hammer on him and he finds his way in jail next to Karim, Skinner, and Lomax.

  • JackStarDC

    Lets look into how much has been looted "privatizing" the prison function and who has made it. There you will find a true treasure trove.

  • JackStarDC

    Wilmot gets paid this much for just being the out front man. Can you imagine what the behind the scenes guys are hauling in? Root 'em out, expose them!

  • downtown rez

    Me-Bent Adrian
    If memory serves Bolden is and has for years has been the go to lawyer for every connected person. It's a mistake for Suderman (or anyone) to characterize him primarily as a lawyer to various friends of Fenty.
    It's also pretty difficult to see how the council didn't play a part in the poor relations. There's a lot of water past under that bridge.

  • Me-Bent Adrian

    Drez- his client roster is loaded with FoFs (friends of Fenty) and all of the cases related to shady contracts they received from the Fenty Administration. Regardless of whoever else has used his "services" in the past, the current clientele is heavily slanted to one particular side.

    As for the Council/Fenty relationship- did you read that idiotic comment by Suze? Come on man, you know that it works both ways and from all reports in the past, Fenty was the main perp behind the bad blood.

    I don't know why Fenty supporters fail to recognize that it was Fenty's arrogrance and disdain for others that cost him key relationships and eventually the election. Blame Blacks hatred of Rhee all you want- it was Fenty who ushered in his own demise.

  • Truth Hurts

    @ Me-Bent Adrian: I agree it's a two way street and that Fenty made numerous dumb/arrogant moves that pissed off the Council. I also believe several, maybe most, Council members fanned the flames. So yes, it's a two way street.

    Btw, what's up with the new monikor? Do you plan on changing the "Adrian" part at some point? Maybe after Gray takes office?

  • http://spsc.seiu.org Peter Witzler

    Toni, Gerard and the rest of the direct support staff at IDI took a courageous stand to form a union with SEIU local 500. Here in the District, SEIU's Supporting People, Supporting Communities campaign is working to address the massive turnover of direct support staff by developing innovative solutions to improve recruitment,retention and training of direct support professionals, check out our blog for more info: http://spsc.seiu.org/2010/09/09/stevie-sellows-act-2/

  • Charlie

    @Elementary Math
    "WOW! Does it really cost $186,666 per year per patient to care for these people?"

    I worked for a company that provide this service to the community. Here are some things to keep in mind. There are three shifts of workers everyday abd weekend staff and eveeryone in the company doesn't make $11 and hour. Each house had a manager who usually had a degree in Social Work. There were housing expenses and food expenses and transportation expenses (the housing residents are not warehoused they go to subsidized employment or day programs). There are property managers and people who go around doing repairs and mowing the lawn. There is a nursing staff. Employee training is a big expense pecause there are many training and certification requirements. Such as HIPAA requirement, procedures for handling client money, infection control and a list of about 25 other areas. There is a finance department to handle the bills and to interface with government for reimbursement. There is an HR department and an IT staff. Where I worked there was terrific staff turn-over; around 50% per year.

    However, where I worked was several times bigger than iDI, and the president made about a third as much as Wilmot. And the Board of Directors worked for free.

  • Truth Hurts

    Drez is right about Scott Bolden representing people from several camps. He was Brenda Richardson's lawyer (Barry's girlfriend and/or chief of staff?), as just one example.

  • downtown rez

    I'm trying to think of someone in the Fenty camp aside from Karim and Skinner that Bolden represents...
    Say, where are the results of that investigation, anyway?

  • Truth Hurts

    On March 8, CM Thomas said the the Trout report would be out in 45 days (ie, before May). So it's almost 7 months overdue -- and counting.

    Re Bolden, a quick google check shows he (in addition to Richardson) also represented Christopher Barry, Diane Gustus (alleged tax scammer), and Cora Masters Barry (hardly in Fenty's camp). Also, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt testified that Barry tried to get her to talk with Bolden before telling Bennet her story.

  • downtown rez

    Exactly. Truth be told, I'm kind of surprised he didn't represent former CM Brazil when he was charged with assault and peeing on the floor of that tattoo parlor. But maybe he was busy that week.

  • Me-Bent Adrian

    Drez and TH- what are you two officially dating now? Glad to know that your mutual ass-kicking of Fenty/deep-seethed hatred of Gray has connected the two of you lonely souls.

    What seems to be the common theme here is that if you're in the political spotlight, you've bound to cross paths with one of these douches. Sadly, DC politics is pretty dirty and guys like them thrive on the City's misery. I don't attribute blame to Fenty's camp solely, but I think it's unfair when others attribute to Gray also.

    I have a tremendous disdain for Barry, Thomas, and K. Brown, almost as much as I do for Fenty. They all have used their positions and influence to unjustly capitalize off of the City and in all honestly is the reason why I appreciate a person like Vincent Gray all the more. Aside from whatever association he might be linked to (and as you all can see here, everyone's connected to the same people), Gray has never himself been directly implicated or marred by any of the underhandedness so prominent in DC. I've never read an article yet that paints Vince himself as negatively as ones written about Fenty, Thomas, Barry, Brown, etc. If you guys have any about the man himself and not some shady douche from St. Louis, let me know.

  • Me-Bent Adrian

    I meant mutual "ass-kissing" of Fenty.

  • Truth Hurts

    @M-BA: How about dropping the personal name calling and sticking with the topic? You claim to have issues with Thomas, Barry, and K.Brown. Great.

    You claim to dislike Charles, calling him a con man and urging Gray to distance himself (and administration) from Charles. Great.

    You claim to dislike Wilmot and Bolden. Great.

    So it seems there's much we agree on, including my chief concern about Gray: that he surrounds himself with too many damaged folks. And, like it or not, he'll be judged by the company he keeps, including those mentioned above.
    You understand these dynamics, because you and many others judged Fenty accordingly. And Fenty's tone deafness was primarily responsible for his downfall.

    Btw, I'm not Drez, just as you're not noodlez.

  • http://spsc.seiu.org Peter Witzler

    @ Charlie: Which provider did you work for?
    Some of the Day programs are providing great services and are not operating as "warehouses" like you say. But unfortunately, that seems to be the exception in DC, not the rule. And, while employment may be the goal, it is certainly not the reality for the vast majority of DC residents with a developmental disability. In fact, it is becoming harder and harder to find employment as a person with a disability in DC.
    TASH, a wonderful national organization focused on employment of persons with disabilities just held a symposium on the employment of minorities with disabilities and showed that the gap in unemployment is not only sizeable, but actually widening.

  • Moe Murph

    Is it just me or does David Wilmot remind anyone of Robert Mugabe in Zimbawe?

    Nice suit, gold watch, well-fed look, drainer off of resources from the most vulnerable, and key player in a kleptocracy?

    By the way, re: "Tax records and previous stories indicate that Wilmot’s hours at IDI varied from five hours a week (in 2001 when he made $105,000). Not bad, where do I sign up?

    How many disabled do I have to drag across the floor to qualify?!?

  • dcpolls

    @truth hurts A. Scott Bolden is still respresenting Brenda my breath smells like dog shit Richardson. It appears shes currently being sued by two people.

  • Dan

    Curtis Walker and Sherilyn Richardson are comamagers of a group home in NYC called Bernard Fineson Residence. Every week, Ms. Richardson, who is responsible for the consumer's bank deposits, regularly siphons off some funds for herself and Mr. Walker, who by the way, happens to have a very serious substance abuse problem. Apple Bank is also to blame for tacidly permiting this or at least not looking into it. This game is played regularly within these group homes and residences. Too bad the politicians are too busy with their own misdeeds to do anything about it.

  • City Dude

    If any of you want to see who gets what from City hall..Go to DC Secretary's page and see all contracts awarded over a million..Pains me to see that 67% of our money, approx..$3 Billion goes to people who take care of either people's health, welfare, imprisonment or housing to make sure these folks live in DC(IN STYLE)..I bet it will sicken you when you see the contract amounts...How about $60 million to feed homeless??..list goes on. You almost need an ombudsman(Control Board) who should be over this council who are spending our money like water...

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