DC Council member Mendelson believes that the program may be operating in violation of District law. The language of the statute that created the program states that it is to be open to all DC residents, but as a condition of a grant the program receives from the Department of Labor's Workforce Investment Act and the Youth Opportunity it can only offer spots to "disadvantaged" youth.
Then there's the issue of the DC Department of Employment Services, who is a partner in the program, inflating the number of program graduates in its report to the Department of Labor.
Meanwhile, the fire department and DOES have reported a 100 percent cadet-graduation rate under the Workforce Investment Act.
But in a Jan. 23 letter to Mr. Mendelson, Chief Thompson said that of the 94 cadet slots that have been funded in the past four years, 10 went unfilled and 17 cadets failed or abandoned the program.
The program actually has a 71 percent graduation rate, and of its 67 graduates in the past four years, 58 remain on the job today.
Alan Etter, a spokesman for the fire department, said the federal funds for the positions that have been vacant -- about $211,890 -- have been returned. That amount does not include money returned for cadets who did not complete the program.
Under an agreement, the fire department and DOES are required to recruit a class to full capacity.
Class capacity has ranged from 20 to 30 cadets, depending upon the funding amount. Funding is based on a per-cadet formula that figures the cost of books, training materials and firefighting equipment and a stipend of about $15,000 for each cadet.