Washington Teachers’ Union takes moribund appeals office to court

The D.C.’s Office of Employee Appeals is the agency where teachers and other District government workers go if they believe they’ve been improperly suspended, fired or laid off. An administrative law judge is supposed to hear the case an render a decision within 120 days.

But the Washington Teachers’ Union charges that the office has been hamstrung by budget cuts that have left it incapable of functioning in anything close to a timely manner. It says, for example, that none of the more than 200 teachers laid off in October 2009 have had their cases heard.

That’s why the union is going to the D.C. Court of Appeals today to file a writ of mandamus, asking that the District be ordered to put the office back on its feet so it can do its job.

“This is a matter of due process,” said WTU president Nathan Saunders, who said the union is asking the court for an expedited ruling on the matter.

The agency’s Web site shows the executive director’s position as vacant, along with two seats on its five-member board. Two of the six administrative judges are listed as part-time.

As of midday, general counsel Sheila Barfield had not returned a phone message seeking comment.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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