D.C. boards sit empty, outdated as process stalls

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's boards and commissions, which oversee matters ranging from tax appeals to dentists, have more than 700 open seats, a Washington Examiner analysis shows. Also, more than two dozen of the city's 175 panels are empty or composed of members whose terms have expired.

The number of available slots -- 729 out of 2,071 positions -- has fallen by 74 since October. Then, 21 panels had no members at all or were exclusively made up of people whose terms had ended. Since, that figure has risen to 27.

Depending on the board, District law permits members whose terms have ended to serve 180 days or until the new selection makes it through the nomination process, meaning some members can serve indefinitely.

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The number of District boards and commissions that are vacant or staffed only by appointees whose terms have expired has jumped to 27 from 21 in October. Those panels include:
Homeland Security Commission
Occupational Safety and Health Board
Real Property Tax Appeals Commission
Statewide Health Coordinating Council
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Mayor Vincent Gray is responsible for filling the boards, and some nominations require the D.C. Council's approval.

But the process has stalled, and an additional 38 boards don't have a majority of their seats occupied by people whose terms are current, meaning 65 panels aren't functioning at all or are doing so with members whose terms have expired. Officials couldn't immediately on Thursday provide a roster of the boards that are listed as vacant yet continue to function with holdovers, but mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said they are plentiful. "A lot of the boards ... are actually fully operational and continue to do their jobs because they have that leeway," Ribeiro said.

Ribeiro also said that so far in fiscal 2012, Gray has named 44 percent more nominees than he did in the last fiscal year.

One city official suggested part of the backlog could be blamed on former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

"We inherited the largest number of vacancies a mayor has ever inherited," the official said on the condition of anonymity. "It has swamped the capacity of [the Office of Boards and Commissions.]"

Complicating Gray's efforts to fill positions: That office has only one permanent employee -- and he's on leave. An interim director and two staffers are temporarily working in the office.

The head of the city's police union, which has a lawsuit pending against the city for failing to name members to the panel that sets standards for police officers, said vacancies of any city boards are troubling.

"Obviously, Gray is just not interested in the long-term future," Kris Baumann said. "It's either paralysis or incompetence, but they have not done what they were elected to do."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner