Architect of Capitol's problem of style

April 30, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Criticizing what she called his "plantation mentality," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski yesterday demanded the resignation of the man who supervises the 285-acre Capitol Hill complex, which includes the Capitol, congressional office buildings and the Supreme Court.

Ms. Mikulski wrote to George M. White, the architect of the Capitol, that a report by the investigative arm of Congress "describes a lack of management principles and employee protections in your office that is outrageous and intolerable.

"You should resign," she said in a letter to Mr. White's office.

The Baltimore Democrat released a General Accounting Office report that said, "Personnel management at [the architect's office] has not kept pace with the human resource management practices common among other federal and private sector organizations. Although we noted progress in some areas, many generally accepted principles of modern personnel management are not present."

The report said that the architect:

* Lacks an affirmative action program "for insuring a diverse workforce" and that minorities and female employees are "under-represented in the higher-paying skilled and managerial

occupational series."

* Does not have promotion policies that are in writing "agencywide."

* Does not require annual performance appraisals.

L * Provides minimal opportunities for "skill-based training."

The report found that of 11 higher-paying jobs under the architect's supervision, 87 percent are held by white men. By comparison, white men hold 64 percent of similar jobs elsewhere in the government.

The report said the agency has taken some steps and plans others "to update its personnel system."

Mr. White was unavailable for comment. But his administrative assistant said the 73-year-old architect had given no indication that he plans to leave. Appointed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1971, he is up for reappointment in 1995.

Mr. White supervises an operation that includes 2,300 employees and has a budget of $163 million a year. He heads the operation and maintenance of the 200-year-old Capitol, Senate and House office buildings, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the Botanical Garden and the Capitol police headquarters, as well as the grounds.

"He is deeply chagrined at the senator's initial reaction," said William Raines, Mr. White's assistant.

"He hopes her position will be mitigated by our improvements in our shortcomings -- those that we have already made and those we will make."

Senator Mikulski, a member of the Senate subcommittee that approves Mr. White's budget, said she requested the GAO analysis in 1992 after hearing complaints from constituents who work for him. She was unavailable for comment yesterday but said in a statement, "The GAO's report has found that the architect's management practices are outrageous and irresponsible.

Ms. Mikulski asked two committees to hold hearings and said she is "drafting legislation that will extend fairness and equality to the architect's employees."

Congress is often criticized for exempting itself from fair employment practices laws and other anti-discrimination statutes that it has adopted. Rachel Kunzler, Ms. Mikulski's press secretary, said the senator's legislation would apply only to the architect of the Capitol and not to the staffs of members of Congress.

"That's not because she doesn't care about the her employees," said Ms. Kunzler. "It's because there isn't support in the Senate for that." She said Ms. Mikulski has co-sponsored legislation to apply federal employment statutes to Congress, but the bill is bottled up in committee.

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