Once again, the District’s Public Employee Relations Board is without a quorum and unable to function, according to City Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3).
Nearly two years ago, the independent board, known as the PERB, couldn’t do its job of resolving labor-management disputes between city agencies and city employees because it did not have enough members. The D.C. Council questioned the qualifications of nominees of then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and rejected them. The council went around Fenty by enacting emergency legislation that allowed the board to function temporarily with a quorum of one until the issue of qualified nominees was resolved.
With PERB chairman Johnine P. Barnes’s appointment expiring June 10, the council recently approved emergency legislation to extend her tenure to keep a quorum of three. But Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) hasn’t signed the legislation, leaving the board in limbo, and there are still no nominees, said Cheh, chairman of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment.
Cheh said she has been hounding the Gray administration for nominees so the PERB’s work would be uninterrupted. The board has a backlog of hundreds of cases, which she said will cost the city more the longer employees and the government have to wait for decisions.
According to Gray staffers, the mayor has until June 22 to sign the legislation. Meanwhile, D.C. Wire got an almost immediate response from Ronald Collins, director of the Office of Boards and Commissions, that Gray has selected two nominees and would be sending them to the council for approval. When? “Today,” he said Thursday.
They are Charles Murphy, a professor of business, and Wynter Allen, an attorney well versed in labor law.
“If they’re sending over nominees, hallelujah,” Cheh said.
She said she had to fight unqualified nominees during Fenty’s administration. “Now, I have to fight against negligence,” she said. “When we did this in 2009, we did identical legislation and the mayor voted for it,” she said.
On Friday morning, Cheh said she still had not seen correspondence about nominees. “Maybe it’s in transit,” Cheh said.
She said she would call a hearing and markup as soon as possible when she gets the nominees. She said she hopes to the council can take action before the summer recess.