Questions remain as DYRS nominee nears confirmation

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Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s pick to lead the District’s juvenile justice agency will likely be confirmed this week by running out the clock on any objections to his nomination.

Such a scenario will be the conclusion of two unusual legislative maneuvers in the past several days, beginning Friday when the only two members of the D.C. Council's Committee on Human Services showed up and rejected Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services nominee Neil A. Stanley.

That is expected to be followed by the full councildeclining to vote on the nomination Tuesday, the last day of the legislative session.

Committee chairman Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, in voting against the nomination cited concerns about Mr. Stanley’s lack of relevant experience and an inquiry into how he filled a key post at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel.

Mr. Graham asked the Department of Human Resources to investigate the latter issue — namely, whether he deleted juvenile justice requirements to better suit a longtime friend for the position — but preliminary findings failed to address the council member’s key concerns. With the matter unresolved, Mr. Stanley’s confirmation was left off the agenda for Tuesday’s legislative meeting.

Mr. Graham attempted to explain the nonvote Monday by saying: “Given the serious allegations under investigation by DCHR … a full council vote without that investigative result would not be as informed as it should be. … This decision was made in consultation with union officials who have been adamantly opposed to Mr. Stanleys nomination.”

Mr. Graham noted his frustration with D.C. human resources, which found unspecified “irregularities” in the hiring of Coast Guard Capt. Steven Baynes at New Beginnings, yet has not completed its investigation.

Mr. Graham said human resources took “serious actions,” including the revocation of DYRS’ independent hiring authority for one year, so he would like to see the investigation completed.

“I’ll be watching it extremely closely,” he said. “This is not going away.”

If the results raise eyebrows, it will be up to the mayor to address it, Mr. Graham said.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Barry, also said a broader search should have been conducted for someone to lead the troubled agency. Union leaders in attendance stood up and applauded the decision.

Three other members of the committee — council members Yvette Alexander, Michael A. Brown and Tommy Wells — were absent from the hearing, with council Chairman Kwame R. Brown filling in to form a quorum. He abstained from the vote.

Mr. Graham said all the committee members were personally notified of the hearing and aware that a vote would occur. However, the notice went out less than the 24 hours required by council rules, two of the members were out of town and one had “an emergency,” according to council staff.

Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, issued a memo Monday saying notice did not go out until 6:43 p.m. on Thursday. Mr. Wells asked Mr. Graham to reject the decision Friday and send it back to the committee, “given the lack of appropriate notice requirements to provide fair and open opportunity for committee action.”

Ms. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, expressed sentiments similar to Mr. Wells’ and said she supports the mayor’s pick to lead DYRS.

Mr. Stanley had been named interim director in December and acting director in March, after serving as general counsel for DYRS and serving in other D.C. agencies earlier in his career.

Council members typically give deference to the mayor’s picks for key Cabinet posts unless they have notable concerns about the nominee’s ability to effectively lead an agency. Peter Nickles, who served as D.C. attorney general under former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, was the last notable nomination to be rebuffed by a council committee. However, he was confirmed by the full council in late 2008.

DYRS has been a troubled agency in recent years, with multiple shifts in leadership, a lack of youth oversight, and notable escapes and reports of violence against employees.

Mr. Stanley received supportive testimony during his confirmation hearings. But Mr. Graham said there were lingering questions about his leadership, morale at the agency and whether he edited the New Beginnings job description to fit the qualifications of Capt. Baynes.

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