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Posted at 04:20 PM ET, 07/09/2012

Unions move to block lobbyist’s appointment to water board


(Holland and Knight)
The city hall lobbyist nominated to the D.C. Water board of directors, already facing questions about his ties to contractors, is now facing heated opposition from labor groups.

Roderic L. Woodson’s nomination to the utility board was pulled from a D.C. Council agenda late last month after a council member raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest. But the nomination is set to be voted on at tomorrow’s council meeting, and union leaders are making a strong push against confirmation — one that led Woodson to send a letter directly to council members defending his record.

“Rod Woodson has been on the opposite side of every labor-related issue for the last 20 years,” said a union official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Woodson, a partner at the Holland and Knight law firm, has ties to construction and development interests, including the powerful D.C. Building Industry Association and the generally anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors. As a lobbyist for the Miller and Long construction company, he testified against legislation that would expand so-called “First Source” agreements mandating the hiring of city residents on government-financed construction projects — a labor priority.

A form letter circulated by Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO says that with “Woodson’s many ties to builders and developers in the District, there is no way for him to act as an impartial board member in the interest of D.C.” It continues, “With [D.C. Water] currently embarking on several billion dollars worth of infrastructure work, which will create many new job opportunities in the District, having an anti-union, anti-D.C. resident individual on the Board is not in the city’s interest.”

In a Friday e-mail sent to D.C. Council members and staff, Woodson acknowledged criticizing First Source but said his concerns have been rooted in policy analysis rather than in personal antipathy toward unions: “The true answer to tackling unemployment is to be found with a well-designed and thoughtfully implemented workforce development program,” he wrote. And the idea that his board service would be hampered by conflicts of interest, he wrote, “is an absurd argument attempting to mask an act of desperation.”

“With the exception of one tangential day of work for Skanska more than a year ago on a non-procurement issue, I have never represented any of these entities!!” he wrote, adding, “what does any of this have to do with the price of water in the District?”

But labor activists maintain that the conflicts are troublesome, considering that his law firm colleagues are leading a legal challenge to First Source and could potentially represent contractors seeking D.C. Water business.

Both the AFL-CIO council and the Laborers’ International Union of North America have been lobbying council members to again table Woodson’s nomination. Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who had previously raised concerns, said Monday that he plans to oppose Woodson’s nomination, and the union official said that five council members in all have pledged to do so — leaving labor one vote short as of Monday afternoon.

By  |  04:20 PM ET, 07/09/2012

 
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