Norval E. Perkins is back.
Five months ago, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics thought it had gotten rid of Perkins, who as the board's executive secretary for six years had presided over a string of election day snafus, including one primary in which it took 12 days to count the ballots.
The board "reorganized" Perkins' job out of existence, replaced him with two other persons in lower-paying jobs, and laid Perkins off, saying that the job he held was no more.
Yesterday, however, there was surprising news for the board from the U.S. Civil Serivce Commission, to which Perkins had appealed his dismissal. A CSC appeals officer concluded that the reorganization plan had not really eliminated Perkins' job, and thus the board could not get rid of Perkins.
The appeals officer reversed the dismissal, which means Perkins is entitled to have his job back within 30 days.
Board Chairman Shari B. Kharasch said the board would let its lawyer consider the CSC action for no longer than three weeks and then decide whether to accpet or appeal it. Perkins said yesterday that the board will have to make its next move before he says whether he wants the job back.
"I just wish for them to obey the order and I will make my move from there," he said. "It appears to be selfexplanatory. What they did was clearly a wrong."
If the CSC action is not reversed on appeal, Perkins would be entitled to about $15,000 in back pay. "I want people to understand that it (the CSC decision) was a vindication, and all of the time lost has to be made up to me," Perkins said.
The board's dismissal of Perkins climaxed many months of bitter internal debate in which two of the board's three members appeared clearly out to get rid of Perkins, but simply could not agree on the best way to do it.
Last July, the board voted 2 to 0 with one abstention to fire Perkins for allegedly failing to perform his job properly. But three weeks later, the board decided to take the more indirect route of implementing a reorganization plan that eliminated Perkins' job and laying Perkins off on the basis of a "reduction in force."
CSC appeals officer Michael E. Sedmak said in the decision released yesterday that the reduction in force claim was inappropriate. The reorganization plan did create two new jobs that were to replace the work being done by Perkins, Sedmak acknowledged. But the description for onw of those jobs was essentially the same as the description for Perkins' job, except for the lower pay, he said.
On that basis, the board's action amounted only to downgrading Perkins' position without changing its duties. The board should have - but did not - offer the new, lower-paying job to Perkins, the appeals officer said. Thus, the board improperly used its powers to dismiss by a reduction in force.
Several persons familiar with last August's decision to dismiss Perkins through a "reduction in force" said yesterday that route had been pregered because it avoided the possibility of putting a bad mark on Perkins' job record.
George R. Harrod, the city's personnel director, said his office had looked at the descriptions for the new jobs and believed they were significantly different from Perkins' old job. One complicating factor in that comparison, however, several sources said, was that Perkins was actually doing more than was in his job description.
Both the new positions created - elections administrator and administrative officer - have since been filled. Since yesterday's decision does not outlaw the reorganization plan, the board may have to recreate Perkins' job in order to take him back.
Sources close to the board said that because of the bitter emotional differences that developed during te fight over Perkins' job, it is unlikely that he could effectively function as the chief staff peson for the boad. Moreover, no other position with equal pay exists on the board's job roster.