Campus Notebook: Issa Paves Way for Local D.C. Hiring Bill

Posted November 1, 2011 at 5:59pm

Facing criticism from D.C. activists and the D.C. Council, Rep. Darrell Issa decided to stop work on a bill that would restructure the city’s hiring practices.

The California Republican reached an agreement Tuesday morning with D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown to hold off on Thursday’s markup of the legislation at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs.

Brown and others have argued that Councilmember Mary Cheh has introduced similar legislation that will be taken up by local officials, rendering Issa’s bill redundant and an infringement on the city’s autonomy.

The Representative’s bill, like Cheh’s, would set new standards for appointing high-level officials in D.C. government to avoid situations where employees are not properly vetted before being installed in powerful positions.

“Chairman Issa and Councilman Brown had a phone call this morning … [and] Chairman Issa secured commitment that [the] D.C. Council would pass legislation in the next two months to address Congressional concerns about improper hiring practices,” Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said Tuesday.

Hill further suggested that Issa’s agreement to postpone consideration of his bill was contingent on City Council action on Cheh’s legislation, which is scheduled for a hearing on Nov. 10, according to Cheh spokeswoman Kiara Pesante.

Issa’s announcement also halted Cheh’s plan to compel the City Council to formally condemn Congressional interference into local affairs, most recently the committee’s legislative efforts and its investigation into allegations of misconduct leveled at Mayor Vincent Gray.

The City Council and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee were conducting probes simultaneously to determine whether Gray promised then-fellow Democratic mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown money and a government job if he stayed in a multiple-candidate primary to unseat former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

After being fired from his post with the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance just weeks after he was hired following revelations of a prior criminal record, Sulaimon Brown accused Gray of bribing him.

Both investigations drew from similar sources and reached similar conclusions. They also led to the introduction of legislation to provide more accountability in appointing senior D.C. government officials.

In a statement, Cheh called Issa’s duplicative actions “a deep offense to the people of the District of Columbia.”

But when she came to the dais Tuesday to introduce her resolution, she thanked Kwame Brown for reaching out to Issa.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) thanked Issa for halting his bill.

“With D.C. hiring legislation already pending in the Council … this was a clear case that could and should be resolved without Congressional intervention, and I applaud Chairman Issa and Council Chairman Brown for acting.”

DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka was less enthusiastic.

“While we’re pleased that [Issa’s] pulling the bill back, we are concerned that his threat of the bill to move the Council in a specific way, or even to move the council to action, is inappropriate, and not something he would do or allow to be done to the City Council in his own Congressional district,” Zherka said.

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