Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Margaret Weichert has announced that Mark A. Robbins will be OPM’s new General Counsel.
Serving in Two Positions
President Trump has issued a memorandum directing Mr. Robbins, current Acting Chairman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), to serve concurrently as the OPM General Counsel.
Currently, Robbins is the only member of the MSPB. His term expires on March 1, 2019. After that date, there will not be any MSPB members to process appeals from federal employees seeking a decision on their employment concerns, which include appeals of removals and a number of disciplinary actions.
Backlog at MSPB Will Take Years to Resolve
President Trump will presumably be nominating new members in 2019 to serve at the MSPB. This means restarting the nominating process. The President may re-nominate his choices or provide names of new nominees in 2019. The full process of vetting financial disclosures, and having Committee hearings will also have to be re-accomplished.
Robbins, whose term was extended one year after his term officially ended March 1, 2018, has been performing administrative and executive functions. He has not been able to make decisions regarding petitions of review (PFR) of decisions made by regional administrative judges due to the lack of a quorum at the agency.
This has been the case since January 7, 2017, when Chairman Susan Tsui Grundmann resigned after serving in a holdover capacity for ten (10) months. There are now apparently more than 2000 cases awaiting a decision from the MSPB. Back in October 2018, the Acting Chairman estimated it would take several years to process the backlog. Presumably, the number of cases will continue to grow until there is again a quorum at MSPB.
Previously Served as OPM General Counsel
Robbins previously served as OPM General Counsel from 2001 to 2006. He has also served as the General Counsel of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and as a Senior Rule of Law Advisor for the State Department in Iraq, where he was awarded the Army’s Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.
Robbins was also Executive Director of the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board between 2006 and 2008. He worked in private practice as a litigation attorney in Los Angeles, California between 1988 and 2000, and in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel from 1984 to 1988.
He started his career as a Legislative Assistant to two Los Angeles area Members of Congress, covering, among other things, civil service and federal human resources management issues.