Two D.C. Council members are drafting emergency legislation that would reduce the size of the University of the District of Columbia's governing board, which loses its operating majority tomorrow because D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has been slow to fill vacancies on the panel.
The council members, Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), head of the Education Committee, and David Catania (R-At Large), said they want to shrink the board from 15 members--though only 11 currently serve--to nine. They say this would create a more effective panel and make it easier to reach an operating quorum. Both Williams and outgoing board Chairwoman Michele Hagans disagree with the plan.
With nine trustees, an operating quorum would be five, a number the council members said would be easier to attain.
As of yesterday, the mayor, responsible for appointing a majority of the trustees with council approval, had not submitted any UDC board nominations, though his spokeswoman, Peggy Armstrong, said he has a list of nominees.
Among those being considered, according to knowledgeable sources, are the Rev. Willie Wilson, of Union Temple Baptist Church, and George Dalley, a partner at Holland & Knight law firm. Neither returned phone calls.
In a statement, Williams said university trustees have multiple jobs, including providing intellectual and financial resources to the school. "A smaller board may deprive the university of these valuable resources as well as working subcommittees necessary for large organizations," he said.
Hagans said the plan to cut the size of the board is "not well thought out."
The trouble is the latest setback to a school still trying to recover from years of financial and administrative turmoil. The trustees have long been accused of being ineffective, and there have been times when there wasn't a quorum.
Williams said in a recent interview that he has had difficulty recruiting people of "national stature" to join the board. He said some prominent people seem unwilling to serve because of the school's many problems.
The panel has been operating many months with 11 members--and usually manages to muster a quorum of eight. Seven trustees are leaving Friday: the top two officers, whose terms expired in May but were allowed to stay for 180 more days, and three alumni trustees, who will be replaced soon.
The council is expected to consider the emergency legislation Tuesday. If it passes, the new board size would be in effect for 225 days, although Catania supports making it permanent.