In Md. delegation, only Bentley has no black or Hispanic aides

May 20, 1994|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON — Because of incorrect information supplied by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' office, The Sun provided incorrect information in a graphic accompanying an article yesterday on the ethnic

makeup of the staffs of Maryland's congressional delegation.

Mr. Sarbanes' staff includes 10 blacks, two Hispanics, one Asian and 38 whites; the minority representation is 25.4 percent.

The Sun regrets the errors.

WASHINGTON -- At a time when minority hiring is getting increased scrutiny on Capitol Hill, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley stands out as the only member of Maryland's congressional delegation whose staff includes no blacks or Hispanics, according to a survey by The Sun.


In all, three members of the state's 10-person delegation fall below the congressional average for minority hiring, the survey found. They are Ms. Bentley, Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland and Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore.

Baltimore Democrat Kweisi Mfume has 15 minorities on his 18-person staff, the most among the state delegation. First-term Democrat Albert R. Wynn of Prince George's County, the state's other black congressman, is next with 12 minorities out of a staff of 16.

It was a Marylander, Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who recently raised the question of race as a factor in hiring and promotions on Capitol Hill. She upbraided George M. White, the architect of the Capitol, for allegedly discriminating against minorities and women on his agency's 2,200-person work force, which maintains and operates the Capitol complex.

A hearing on the subject last week before Ms. Mikulski's subcommittee brought renewed attention to hiring practices on Capitol Hill. Congress has been criticized over the years for a lack of diversity among its staff members, especially at upper levels, but repeatedly has refused to make itself subject to the same anti-discrimination laws it has imposed on the rest of the nation.

For Mrs. Bentley, the question of minority staffing could prove politically embarrassing, because she is a candidate for governor of Maryland, where the population is 30 percent nonwhite.

Asked about her staff's lack of racial diversity, Mrs. Bentley said, "I don't have many openings. We don't have the turnover many other congressional offices have."

The Lutherville Republican pointed out that her office receptionist is 25 percent American Indian. She added that while her staff lacks a racial mix, women hold high-ranking positions, including chief of staff.

Mrs. Bentley also said she has given several internships and scholarships to black students. The last black to work for her, she said, was a receptionist who was killed by a boyfriend at least five years ago.

Asked whether she thought it important to employ racial minorities, Mrs. Bentley, whose congressional district is 92 percent white, said, "I haven't had anybody apply." Then she added, "I'm not going to fire anybody for anybody."

Members of Congress often hire staffers who are political supporters, or at least political sympathizers. But lawmakers can also fill jobs through central placement services.

Although no information is kept on the race of applicants, "probably half" of the people who seek jobs through the central employment office are minorities, said John McDermott, chief of the House Placement Office, which has up to 2,000 applicants on file at any given time.

In the House, 15.5 percent of the staffers are nonwhite, according to a 1992 survey by the Congressional Management Foundation. A similar study the group did in 1993 found that 14.7 percent of Senate staffers were minorities.

Over the years, Congress has come under fire for the relatively low number of minorities among the more than 10,000 policy analysts, administrative assistants, legislative aides and clerical workers its members employ.

Last year, the Congressional Black Caucus, led by Mr. Mfume, requested a study of minority employment in Congress. The request is still pending.

A letter from the caucus said the largest share of the policy-making jobs held by minority staffers were provided by the members of Congress who were themselves minorities.

Members of Congress are exempt from fair-employment laws and most other laws that guide other employers.

The Senate and the House have adopted rules that bind them to the substance of some anti-discrimination laws. But the rules are enforced by their own offices of fair employment practices, which some critics say are ineffective.

Ms. Mikulski is supporting a bill that would bring Congress under the laws that guide most other employers. Already, said Ms. Mikulski -- whose staff is 27.6 percent minority, well above the Senate average -- she is planning legislation to formalize employment policy changes in the Capitol architect's office. Eventually, she added, "it could even include us."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.