‘Shared’ Staffers Face More Regulation

Posted July 30, 2008 at 5:56pm

All shared employees now must file financial disclosure forms under a resolution approved by the House Administration Committee on Wednesday.

The resolution was one of a slew of legislative measures the committee passed on the cusp of the August recess. It moved unanimously, about two months after the House Inspector General recommended tighter supervision of those employees who work for several House offices.

IG James Cornell investigated the shared employee system after one person was caught embezzling money from Member office accounts. At a committee hearing in May, Cornell told Members his office was also investigating a second shared employee who may have improperly billed offices.

“It’s their actions that unfortunately make these requirements necessary,” ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) said at Wednesday’s hearing. “We want to make sure we’ve locked the barn door even after the horse is gone.”

Under the resolution, shared employees will also have to inform every employing office of their other employers. The regulations apply to those employees who work for three or more offices.

Financial disclosure requirements are usually limited to employees who make more than $114,468, a threshold required by law. But since the House Administration Committee oversees shared employees, it is making the disclosure a condition of employment — and thus no laws need to be changed and the measure does not require full House approval, said committee spokesman Kyle Anderson.

Many shared employees already reach the threshold and file disclosures, since they are able to make a tidy profit by providing financial or computer services to several offices.

Tom Anfinson, who handles the finances for more than 20 offices, is one of them. But he expressed frustration at being kept out of the process for changing the requirements.

He only found out about the new regulations when contacted by Roll Call.

“They never tell us about these damn hearings. It’s a little frustrating that we can’t keep up on this,” he said. “We will abide by anything they want us to do, but for God’s sake, let us know what we need to do.”

The regulations won’t go into effect until House officials complete the “Shared Employees Manual,” which Anderson predicted would be finished in the next few weeks. The new regulations will be included in the manual, and shared employees will have to sign a form pledging that they will comply.

The committee also used Wednesday’s hearing to pass several other bills that affect House employees and the legislative branch.

• A bill introduced by Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) would ensure that House employees receive their full salary if called away for active military duty. The House would pay the difference between their military salary and their usual pay. It passed unanimously.

• Legislation from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) would direct the Chief Administrative Officer to distribute pay stubs electronically. Right now, staffers receive them on paper. It passed unanimously.

• After a bit of debate, the committee passed a bill to authorize the CAO to spend $10 million over the next two years on “demonstration projects” to promote energy efficiency. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill, said it would allow the CAO to come up with innovative ways for the House to reduce energy consumption, while Ehlers argued the power should be given to the Architect of the Capitol.

• Lofgren’s bill to give the Law Library some financial independence also passed. It would create a separate line item for the Law Library in the Library of Congress’ budget and create a program for donations.

• The committee also passed a bill requiring the secretary of Veterans Affairs to allow states to designate VA facilities as voter registration agencies — a direct response to a recent VA directive that prohibits voter registration drives in its facilities. Some Republican committee members voiced concern that veterans may be hounded by activists, but the bill was eventually approved.