Saturday, September 6, 2008

Another kind of vindication

    Every few days I've been noting the number of additional families vindicated in the FLDS case in Texas. (The number of children whose parents effectively have been cleared now is up to 268). But there was vindication of another sort in Washington D.C. yesterday. An arbitrator ruled that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty was wrong to fire three social workers who had some involvement in the case of the children of Banita Jacks. (See the previous Blog entry).

    The Washington Post reports that the arbitrator ordered the union workers reinstated, with full back pay plus interest, and he ordered the firings expunged from the workers' records. The City plans to appeal. Three others also were fired, but they are management and so have no protection from mayoral grandstanding.

    The decision reveals that the mayor's behavior was even worse than previously known. He didn't just swing his ax wildly, firing the workers with no investigation. In fact, he and his henchmen went through the trouble of dredging up technicalities to use as excuses for the dismissals. Said the arbitrator: "Basic notions of fairness and due process have not been met in this case." He added: "Not only had the Mayor ordered their dismissal without any investigation, it is undisputed that he issued a further order prohibiting any consideration of [a] hearing officer's [earlier] recommendation to overturn the dismissals."

    The decision is a rebuke not only to the Mayor, whose actions, as the Post story put it, "began a downward spiral in an agency still recovering from years of problems," it's also a de-facto condemnation of all those who recklessly cheered on the Mayor at the expense of the city's vulnerable children, back when he first fired the workers.

    And it's not just in child welfare where the chickens are coming home to roost. Post columnist Colbert King has a scathing column about a court hearing where a judge excoriated Fenty and other city officials for failing to abide by a consent decree to help another vulnerable population, students in need of special education.

The tragedy of Adrian Fenty is not just that he's a serial grandstander – that can be said about many pols. The special tragedy of Fenty is that he seems incapable of anything else.