A former interim director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation hired a close friend while living rent-free in the friend's basement in the city, then claimed D.C. as her home when she was actually a Virginia resident. Those findings by the D.C. inspector general in a recent report serves as late vindication for the D.C. Council, which voted Ximena Hartsock out of office in October 2009. At the time, several council members said they believed she was breaking the law by continuing to operate DPR day care centers Mayor Adrian Fenty had sought to outsource. Fenty appointed Hartsock in April 2009.
She "appeared to simply be flouting the law," then-council Chairman Vince Gray told The Washington Examiner after a contentious confirmation hearing that ended with the council voting 7-5 against Hartsock's appointment. Former Attorney General Peter Nickles said the council hearing was "racist" after questions regarding Hartsock's immigration status were raised. She is Hispanic.
Hartsock could not be reached for comment for this story. She currently consults for former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
It seems that the council might have had a point about Hartsock's approach to the law.
According to the inspector general's report, Hartsock was on the verge of selling her home in Arlington because she incorrectly believed she had to live in D.C. after she was appointed interim DPR director when her friend stepped in and offered up her basement. They signed a lease that said Hartsock would pay the friend $750 a month. Hartsock then listed her residency as D.C. on her federal I-9 form.
But the inspector general pulled Hartsock's bank account and found nothing had been paid.
Meanwhile, Hartsock hired the friend for a $27 an hour summer job with the parks department.
The inspector general said in the report that Hartsock violated the District Personnel Manual by giving preferential treatment, losing impartiality, adversely affecting the public's confidence in the government's integrity and by accepting a gift from an employee who earned less than she did. The inspector general referred the false statements on the I-9 to the U.S. attorney's office, but it declined to prosecute, the report says.
In the end, the inspector general noted, Hartsock could have waited nearly a year before finding a place to live in D.C. Top city officials are required to find a home in the District within 180 days of receiving council approval.