Policy: Labor

D.C. labor board leader resigns over residency requirement

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Local,DC,Virginia,Labor unions,Eric P. Newcomer,Arlington,Vincent Gray,Labor

The head of the D.C. board tasked with resolving labor disputes resigned last week after allegations surfaced that he did not reside in the District as required by city law.

On April 30, Ondray T. Harris -- a lawyer who was then serving as executive director of the Public Employee Relations Board -- informed the board that he lived in Virginia.

District law requires that the board's executive director take up residency in the city within 180 days of appointment.

Harris was hired in April 2011 and received an annual salary of $134,000, according to D.C. records,

Before joining the board, Harris worked as the director of the Community Relations Service at the U.S. Department of Justice, a position that required the nomination of President George W. Bush and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

After Harris admitted to the Public Employee Relations Board that he lived in Virginia, he was provided 10 days to articulate in writing why he shouldn't lose the job. Instead, he resigned on May 24, according to a letter sent by the board's chairwoman, Wynter Allen, who did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.

Keturah Harley, who serves as the board's general counsel, has been named acting director. She does not currently reside in the District, either.

But, she said, "I do not live in the District, but as acting director, I am not required to."

The Washington Times first reported that Harris lived in Arlington.

Mayor Vincent Gray's spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said Thursday that the mayor's office referred the matter to the board after allegations surfaced that Harris lived outside the District.

The mayor appoints members of the board, but they select their own executive director.

"We expect everyone to comply with the law," Ribeiro said. "It helps connect them to the constituency they are supposed to be serving. There is no better way to be connected to the community than to live in the community."

Harley said the board would carry on.

"We're continuing to do the business of the public at this point in time," she said. "We're not lagging."

The attorney general's office declined to comment on whether it is investigating Harris for violating city law.

Attempts to reach Harris for this story were unsuccessful.

The District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978 established residency requirements for mayoral appointees.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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