Williams Fires a Pair

Article excerpt

Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Williams abruptly fired two of his top deputies this week, causing turmoil in the D.C. school system and the city's grant office.

Edward H. Stephenson, 52, who last May took over as chief of the school system's messy finances, was told Wednesday afternoon to "resign by the end of next week," The Washington Times has learned.

The message was delivered by Norman Dong, Mr. Williams' chief of staff. Mr. Stephenson says Mr. Dong told him he was being forced out because of his "performance" but said nothing else.

On Tuesday, Mr. Williams' deputies ordered Sandra R. "Sam" Manning, director of the D.C. Office of Grants Management, to leave her office by the end of the day. Mrs. Manning manages more than $17 million worth of grants from 23 different federal agencies, including several large grants from the Justice Department.

The shake-up in the school system, which is already reeling from the resignation a week ago of former facilities chief and retired Gen. Charles E. Williams, promised further uneasiness among school workers.

It also drew fire from Bruce K. MacLaury, chairman of the appointed board of trustees.

"The process was impossibly bad. There was no consulting with [D.C. schools chief Gen. Julius W.] Becton by Williams," said Mr. MacLaury, in an interview yesterday outside the council's chambers.

"I think Becton was shocked by this. I was shocked by this," he added, saying that he hopes to set up a meeting with D.C. financial control board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer, who is in charge of the city's schools.

Mr. Williams, who in the past has issued press releases when he fired D.C. workers, was unusually close-mouthed yesterday about the dismissals.

Peggy Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Williams, said he would not comment on either of the firings or say whether there was a broader purge planned.

"It's part of our long-term strategic planning," she said. "Mr. Williams is making several changes, and Mr. Stephenson is part of that."

However, sources familiar with the situation said Mr. Stephenson was partly blamed for a critical January audit of the school system's roof repair effort last summer.

In addition, some vendors complained that they have not been paid, the source said.

Despite the fact that Mr. Stephenson is leaving as early as March 13, he spent the better portion of yesterday afternoon testifying before the council's education committee, chaired by Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat. …