Washington, DC — A highly touted law to give District of Columbia residents a leg up in hiring by the city has been rendered a dead letter by the Gray administration, according to a complaint filed today with the D.C. Office of Inspector General by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result of actions by top Gray administration officials, District residents are being improperly passed over for civil service jobs in favor of preferred applicants who reside in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.
The “Jobs for D.C. Residents” Act of 2007 requires that every “bona fide” District resident receive a 10-point “residency preference” bonus on a 100-point scale when applying for the vast majority of jobs within D.C. government. However, PEER charges that the Gray administration engages in practices that functionally nullify current D.C. resident preference requirements:
- D.C. residency preference points are not added to an applicant’s score until after the tallying of Certification lists that place applicants into categories such as “highly qualified” and “well qualified.” This policy renders the residency points meaningless, as many D.C. applicants are screened from further consideration before their preference points can be applied;
- Even for those applicants who make it into a ranking category from which selections are made without the benefit of their preference points, contrary to District Human Resources regulations, candidates who do not qualify for a residency preference are selected over other those who have a residency preference;
- When confronted for the justification for these practices, District Human Resources officials claim to have the power to add preference points after creating certification lists and to grant a waiver of residency preference requirements. Yet, when pressed for a copy of the authority for this power, these officials have yet to produce any.
“It appears that D.C. residents are being wrongly excluded from city jobs,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that currently less than half of the roughly 31,000 people who hold city jobs live in the District. “What good is a hiring preference if it is never applied?”
PEER is asking District Inspector General Charles Willoughby to investigate waiver and deferral practices by top appointees of Mayor Vincent Gray to void the effect of District resident hiring preferences. PEER also contends that similar practices are used to nullify mandatory veteran’s preferences for applicants with military experience.
Ironically, the D.C. City Council is considering legislation to double the District resident hiring preference to 20 points but does not specify when the preference points would be applied or whether they could be waived. Thus, if enacted, the new legislation would be similarly circumvented by the Gray practices.
“We are urging the Inspector General to find out how many District residents have been inappropriately passed over for District jobs,” Ruch added. “We are also concerned that top officials may be using these waivers to put their thumbs on the selection scales for political reasons.”