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The half-million-dollar house on a leafy street in the cozy Palisades section of Northwest Washington sits vacant. Notices and advertisements are jammed in the front door. A telephone book sits untouched on the front steps. White curtains hide an empty living room. A solitary collapsible lawn chair set up in the dining room casts a shadow on the bare wooden floor. “Up until a few weeks ago, there was no sign of human habitation,” says Patricia Ryan, who lives across the street. This is the house where Anne Wicks, the executive officer of the D.C. courts, has said she lives. Wicks had good reason to claim that. D.C. law clearly states the executive officer of the D.C. courts must be “a bona fide resident” of the District. Wicks went so far as to claim a tax exemption for D.C. residents for the property. But after Legal Times recently inquired about the property, Wicks admitted she has lived in Arlington, Va., for the past 2 1/2 years. She has never lived in the house she bought for $502,700 in October 2004. And her superiors at the D.C. courts have been aware of Wicks’ apparent violation of the residency requirement. In March, officials in the Office of the D.C. Inspector General sent a letter to Wicks’ bosses � D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric Washington and D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King III � stating they had received an anonymous tip claiming that Wicks was not living in the District. The next month, the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue audited Wicks’ D.C. property and found she had been improperly receiving Washington’s homestead tax credit. The city ordered Wicks to pay about $2,000 in back taxes and penalties. In an interview, Wicks concedes she has never spent a night in the D.C. house, but she says repairs are under way to make it “habitable” and she’ll be moving in by July 30 � almost two years after she purchased the house. She says several issues delayed her move, including difficulty closing on the sale, failed plans to renovate the property, and “significant health matters,” about which she would not elaborate. “I have always been committed to being a D.C. resident. That’s why I bought the property,” Wicks says. “There are explanations but no excuses as to why I am not currently living in D.C.” Chief Judge Washington declined to be interviewed on the matter but issued a written statement: “When Chief Judge King and I were apprised of Ms. Wicks’ situation, we met with her to discuss her living arrangements. She explained the complications that had arisen in her efforts to renovate her house in the District and we informed her that notwithstanding those complications, she had to re-establish her residency in a timely fashion. We have been assured that she will re-establish her residency in the District by the end of the month.” In a subsequent e-mail, Washington said he had only recently learned of the tax problem. As the top executive in the D.C. court system, Wicks is responsible for managing the courts as well as overseeing a $216 million budget and a staff of 1,161. The D.C. Code states the position of executive officer enjoys “the same compensation, including retirement benefits, as an associate judge of the Superior Court.” Wicks’ annual salary is $165,200. Wicks, formerly the deputy executive officer, was appointed to the position in January 2001 after serving a year as acting executive officer. She replaced Ulysses Hammond, who resigned under pressure after a string of federal audits that found mismanagement in several court programs. Dorothy Brizill, who runs D.C. Watch � a D.C. government watchdog group � says she had heard whispers about Wicks not living in the District. “She is engaged in a very deceitful process that is known to some of the staff at the D.C. court,” Brizill says. Little oversight Since 1978, D.C. law has required that certain positions in the D.C. government be held by city residents. Those who obtain residency-required jobs have 180 days to verify that they live in the District. For most, the process is cumbersome. The D.C. Office of Personnel requires D.C. employees to compile 15 pieces of information showing that they live in the District, including a sworn affidavit, copies of utility bills, and tax returns. More than 40 pages of the personnel agency’s manual are devoted to procedures for verifying D.C. residences. The penalty for not complying with the residency requirements for all employees covered by the Office of Personnel is plainly spelled out: “The failure to become a District of Columbia Domiciliary or to maintain a District of Columbia domicile shall result in the forfeiture of the position to which the person has been appointed.” But none of those procedures and penalties applies to Wicks because, since she is a part of the judicial branch, the personnel office has no oversight over her job. Wicks was hired by, and reports to, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration � the court system’s policy-making body. The joint committee, currently chaired by Washington, also includes King, D.C. Appeals Court Judge Michael Farrell, and Superior Court Judges Geoffrey Alprin and Lee Satterfield. Wicks is the secretary to the joint committee. At the time Wicks was promoted the joint committee was chaired by then-D.C. Appeals Court Chief Judge Annice Wagner. The law that created Wicks’ job has but one sentence on the residency requirement, with no mention of verification or penalty. Wicks says there were no papers to fill out declaring that she was a resident, though she says she was aware of the requirement. Even the judges of the D.C. court system undergo more scrutiny in proving their residency than those in the executive officer position. All judges except senior judges are required to live in Washington. The Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure verifies their residences annually. “Judges report property on an annual financial report form,” according to commission Executive Director Cathaee Hudgins. Wicks is not the only high-profile public official to come under scrutiny for allegedly violating the D.C. residency requirement. In 2002 the D.C. Council gave then-Inspector General Charles Maddox Jr. a vote of no confidence for not complying with his residency requirement as well as other factors, such as not having a D.C. Bar law license. Like Wicks, Maddox held property in the District but also lived elsewhere. Maddox resigned shortly after the council’s action but denied violating the D.C. residency requirement. This house is not a home Wicks’ apparent violation of the District’s residency requirement extends beyond the Palisades home. Though Wicks was appointed executive officer at the end of January 2001, she didn’t move to the District until at least the end of June 2002, when she bought a house in the Chevy Chase Manor neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Wicks claims finding a home in the District at that time was “extremely difficult.” Wicks says she legitimately occupied the residence for two years, although property records put her tenure at 16 months. She says she paid D.C. income taxes, though she didn’t hold a D.C. driver’s license. She and her husband continued to own a house in Arlington, which they bought in 1982, according to property records. In October 2003, Wicks sold the D.C. house and moved back to Arlington. Wicks says she sold the house in order to place a bid on another one in the Palisades neighborhood. But that bid was rejected. A full year later, in October 2004, Wicks purchased a midcentury colonial home on Manning Place in Palisades. Wicks claims it took a year to clear the property of bank liens from the previous owner before she could close on it. Wicks filed for the homestead exemption when she bought the house even though she says she planned on knocking it down and building a new house. At the time, Wicks says, she thought she would be able to demolish, build, and move into the new house in six months. According to officials in the D.C. tax office, Wicks’ property was audited, and on April 12 she was declared ineligible to receive the homestead tax exemption � a property-tax break reserved for D.C. residents who occupy their home. Wicks had been receiving the tax credit for the past 18 months, according to property-tax records. Wicks calls the matter “an oversight.” “I had all the taxes electronically handled each month,” she says, adding that she paid the city around $2,000 in back property taxes and penalties. Wicks says she decided earlier this year � more than 14 months after she bought the house � not to build a new home on the lot. She says the house was in serious disrepair and was unlivable in its current state. In April, Wicks says, she hired a plumber to make a series of repairs. An official in the D.C. Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs says no one has applied for any permits to work on Wicks’ property. A permit, however, would not be needed to make minor repairs on the existing plumbing. And neighbor Patricia Ryan says she’s recently seen painters and other workmen at the house. Anonymous tipster In March the D.C. inspector general’s office received an anonymous tip that Wicks was violating her residency requirement, according to Deputy Inspector General Austin Andersen. “We received the information through a hotline set up to report all types of fraud and abuse,” Andersen says. “We lacked statutory jurisdiction to act on the information so we forwarded it to the courts on March 28th.” Wicks says she was called into a meeting with Washington and King in early April. “They made it clear they wanted me in as soon as possible,” says Wicks, adding that the judges never raised the issue of whether she should resign. Wicks says she was allowed to make her own deadline for moving into the Palisades house. Also around that time, Wicks says, she got a D.C. driver’s license and applied to have her income taxes withheld in the District. When asked whether she ever considered that she was violating the law, Wicks responds: “Certainly I thought about it. Things were happening and they were taking too long.” Ben Sullivan can be contacted at [email protected] Legal Times Managing Editor Tom Schoenberg contributed to this article.

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