The top official in the city Health Department, Carmen I. Paris, was forced out of the post yesterday for allowing the city's top food-safety expert to hold onto his job in Philadelphia while he took a similar post in Washington, D. C.
Paris, the city's interim health commissioner for the past 18 months, was demoted to deputy commissioner. A new leader for the department will be announced today, according to city Managing Director Loree Jones.
George J. Zameska, 54, the veteran official in charge of restaurant inspections and other food-related health issues, was dismissed from his $86,000-a-year city job, after city Inspector General Seth Williams confirmed that Zameska had spent five months working simultaneously for both Philadelphia and Washington.
Health Department officials facilitated Zameska's efforts, scheduling him to work one day a week in Philadelphia, on Saturdays, while he worked Monday through Friday in Washington.
He filled out his Philadelphia workweek with vacation days and comp time, built up during 31 years on the city payroll.
Two other Health Department officials were also disciplined.
Zameska's supervisor, John A. Rafes, was forced to retire, effective immediately, and Assistant Health Commissioner Izzat Melhem was demoted to Rafes' job.
Jones publicly announced the moves yesterday. They followed a meeting Wednesday where two investigators from the inspector general's office briefed Mayor Street, Jones and social-services director Julia Danzy on their findings.
"We received a report from the inspector general which raised serious concerns about employee conduct and managerial supervision in our department of public health," Jones told the Daily News. "We reviewed the inspector general's report and also conducted our own internal review."
The Daily News reported early this month on the investigation into Zameska's unusual work arrangements.
From November 2006 into April 2007, officials allowed Zameska to double his income. He received about $1,700 a week from the District of Columbia on top of $1,650 a week from Philadelphia taxpayers, while continuing to earn credits toward his Philadelphia pension. But the situation also kept the city from hiring a full-time replacement for the civil-service job.
Paris has refused to say publicly whether she knew about Zameska's dual employment. She did not return a call yesterday from the Daily News. Neither did Zameska.
Zameska said last fall he was retiring from his Philadelphia job to take a similar post in Washington. He was honored with a retirement party. In April, just after the inspector general received an anonymous tip about the dual jobs, Zameska gave two days' notice to his superiors in Washington and returned full-time to his post in Philadelphia.
The inspector general's office contended that Zameska's dual jobs violated residency requirements in the two cities, and a provision in the Philadelphia city charter, barring city employees from holding other government jobs, with federal, state or local agencies.
Paris announced her demotion late yesterday afternoon to a stunned group of some 15 Health Department officials.
Williams was contacted by e-mail in Germany, where he is on active duty with the Army Reserves.
"The mayor hired me to investigate corruption and fraud and that is what we are doing," Williams said.
"In this case, it is the finding of the inspector general's office that Zameska violated the Home Rule Charter, civil-service regulations, and the public's trust and his actions were known to his superiors in the Health Department." *