Audit Report and Agency Reorganization Give Closure to Investigation


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

April 16, 2004

 

Audit Report and Agency Reorganization Give Closure to Investigation

In recent months, allegations of poor management and inappropriate business practices were made by a former employee concerning operations within the Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Cable Communications and Consumer Protection (DCCCP). An investigation was conducted by the Fairfax County Police Department and shared with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Many of the allegations were unfounded, and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney declined to prosecute. The county auditors in the Fairfax County Internal Audit Office followed up by conducting a special investigative audit.

Chief Information Officer David J. Molchany, who provides oversight to DCCCP as part of the county’s information based services, reviewed the operations and business practices of the agency and as a result, designed a reorganization plan that moved several functions into other departments. The audit and reorganization plan included recommendations to improve internal controls and enhance the accountability of staff. Action has already been taken on the recommendations; in fact, some improvements were actually in the formative stages before these allegations were made. As a result, some organizational changes were made and some personnel actions were taken.

DCCCP is organized into four divisions: Document Services, Communications Policy and Regulations, Communications Productions and Consumer Protection. As part of the reorganization of the agency, two functions of the Document Services Division have been moved to other departments: archives were moved to the county’s library system, and the copier program was moved to the Department of Information Technology.

DCCCP’s Consumer Protection Division provides a variety of consumer protection services for Fairfax County residents. The division mediates consumer and tenant-landlord disputes and investigates complaints to determine whether consumer protection laws have been violated. The division also prepares cases for legal action to enforce the consumer protection statutes and seeks prosecution through the County Attorney’s Office. In addition, the staff monitors consumer issues and makes recommendations to change state and local laws.

The division is also responsible for licensing and regulation of taxicab drivers and operators, peddlers, solicitors, precious metal and gem dealers, pawnbrokers, and going out of business sales. Consumer Protection also protects the public’s interests on utility issues. In addition, staff provides advice and assistance to condominium and homeowner’s associations through publications, workshops and seminars.

As consumer issues have grown more complex and utility companies have expanded their services, resulting in increased public interaction, the department’s responsibilities have expanded, magnifying the need for strong procedural and financial controls.

In striving to become a high performance organization, DCCCP has pushed decision making to the lowest practical level to empower employees to operate independently and cooperatively in order to best serve their customers. Raising the overall level of service to the public requires change, and changes will continue to be sought and implemented when needed.

Meanwhile, this department has been successful, and its leaders and programs have received national recognition. Ron Mallard, the longtime director of DCCCP, has held leadership positions in a number of organizations that represent the needs and interests of local governments and consumers in the rapidly changing field of telecommunications, and he was recently appointed by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to a newly established Consumer Advisory Committee as the only representative of local governments representing the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators.

Although Mallard will be retiring shortly, agency processes and procedures will continue to be reviewed and the close oversight of internal controls will be ongoing. An acting director will be appointed to fill Mallard’s position and a national search for a new director will be launched shortly. Molchany, who was recognized as one of Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year in November 2003, will be working closely with the acting director and will be leading the national search for a permanent director.

DCCCP was honored in September 2003, when Fairfax County Cable Channel 16 received six Government Programming Awards from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, two of which went to the Consumer Protection Division’s programs “Your Community, Your Call” and “Consumer Focus.” In addition, part of being such a high performing organization is the responsibility to share best practices with others, and DCCCP staff is highly sought for speeches, programs and events.

During this transition period, management practices will continue to be examined and refined so that the Department of Cable Communications and Consumer Protection can provide its essential services in the most economical, efficient and effective manner possible.

 

 

FAIRFAX COUNTY IS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION IN ALL COUNTY PROGRAMS, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES AND WILL PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UPON REQUEST. TO REQUEST SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS, CALL 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935. PLEASE ALLOW FIVE WORKING DAYS IN ADVANCE OF EVENTS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS

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