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Native Intelligence
Moody's management at issue
(Published March 24, 2003)


A few months ago I had a fairly deep discussion with American University law professor Jaime Raskin about how the definitions of "moral" and "legal" in public life have become blurred.

Embattled public officials mired in corruption charges often defend themselves by declaring "I did nothing illegal." The sentiment that "what I did was wrong" is lost.

Fewer people seem to take responsibility for their actions these days. In most cases, there are no consequences. But sometimes, immoral actions - while perfectly legal - can have dire consequences.

Ward 8 resident Linda Moody is a good example. Recently, the former school board member has been mentioned as one of a handful of potential candidates for the Ward 8 city council seat now held by Sandy Allen. Moody is currently completing a second term as president of the D.C. Congress of Parents and Teachers Associations (DCPTA) - a term that has been mired in questions of financial mismanagement and a failed effort to have her resign. She was, however, elected to the national PTA board last year. She also was elected last December (unopposed) as treasurer of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.

(Full disclosure: My husband, Larry Gray, is legislative chairman of the DCPTA and is an elected representative to the Democratic State Committee.)

Moody has been involved in many worthy community activities over the years - and has her supporters and critics. In her continuing zeal to increase the size of her resume, perhaps to bolster another bid for elective office, Moody obtained a grant to provide mammograms for low-income African-American women. Her management of that grant is now at issue.

The work of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and its national "Race for the Cure" are among the most successful efforts nationwide to not only increase breast cancer awareness but to better the health of millions of American women. Proceeds raised through the foundation's annual fund-raising race are used to fund community grants the following year.

As president of the Greater Southeast Community Hospital Auxiliary, Moody applied for one of these grants and received a one-year award of $75,000 at the end of 2001 to offer breast cancer awareness education and mammograms to low-income and uninsured women.

The problem, according to a spokeswoman for the Komen Foundation, is that the hospital auxiliary has failed to provide a final accounting of how the $75,000 was used, despite repeated attempts to reach Moody by phone and e-mail. Foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Halpin said only an interim report was filed.

"If we had received the final report, we would have expected to see a significant number of free screenings and how any positive test results were followed up on with referrals for treatment," she said.

"Had she (Moody) applied for another grant, she would have been denied funding, because she was out of compliance," Halpin added.

Moody denies receiving phone calls or any other form of contact from the Komen Foundation about the problem. She characterizes her involvement with the grant program as minimal and lays the blame for the reporting problem on a staff person who was laid off last August.

But Moody's resume touts her position as the coordinator of the program. She acknowledges she should have taken the time to make sure the program was running effectively.

"I guess I didn't take the time to do it," she said.

Gwen Russell, a spokeswoman for Greater Southeast Community Hospital, said hospital officials were appalled when they discovered the problem. She said they plan to file a final report within a week and hope to reapply for more money for an effective breast cancer awareness and treatment program.

Russell said the $75,000 Komen Foundation grant paid for three seminars on breast health, which were attended by 60 people, and provided 35 mammograms. She said a database for follow-up also was established.

While that may pass as a successful program when viewed in isolation, consider what the Arlington Free Clinic accomplished with the smaller $60,000 grant it received from the Komen Foundation during the same period. The Arlington clinic's Comprehensive Breast Health Program reported using its money to see 921 individuals, of which 402 received clinical breast exams and 229 were given free mammograms - plus, a database was developed for tracking its clients.

Moody may not be "legally culpable" for her handling of the Komen grant, but she certainly is "morally responsible." And while accusations of mismanagement are bad enough in any case where funds are meant to benefit the needy, in this case the failure to reach a greater number of intended beneficiaries has the potential to be life threatening.

Greater Southeast's Russell said the hospital sent Moody a letter in February to formally disband her auxiliary group and to disavow any further affiliation with them.

In addition to the squabble over the Komen Foundation grant, Russell said the hospital is embroiled in a financial dispute with Moody over a $20,000 bill that the hospital claims Moody's auxiliary left behind after it stopped managing the hospital gift shop. Russell said Moody has not returned phone calls about the matter. Moody downplays the dispute, saying they have simply been "missing each other's phone calls."

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator