Agency Head Has Become A National Embarrassment

Actions by the head of the US Commission on Civil Rights have made the agency ineffective and an embarrassment to the Administration

Mismanagement at the US Commission on Civil Rights has gotten national attention.

Earlier this year, the head of the agency, Mary Frances Berry, refused to let a new member selected by President Bush take his position in the agency. That went to court and the court directed the agency to let the President’s appointee assume his new duties.

More recently, there have been reports that the agency was holding meetings in various geographic locations without telling the new members appointed by President Bush where the meeting was or the agenda for the meeting. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Berry is refusing to pay the staff for the new members the same salary received by staff members for other commissioners. The Journal refers to the agency head as a “national embarrassment.”

For those of us who have worked in government agencies for a number of years, these bureaucratic games have a ring of familiarity although it is usually not played out on a national stage. It is unfortunate that an agency with a mission as sensitive as that of the US Commission on Civil Rights is becoming a national joke.

It is obviously a waste of time, money and qualified staff members to have an agency head leading the entire agency down this road. As noted by the Journal, the Administration tends to ignore the agency since it has no enforcement powers and obviously has no influence in the Administration at this point anyway. But, since the President has the power to appoint a new chair, he should quickly appoint someone who can restore respect and effectiveness to the organization.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47