- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2013

In a rare reversal, a D.C. employee-relations board has vacated an order by its executive director to designate someone other than an elected union chairperson as the head of a bargaining unit that represents some 200 youth-corrections officers.

The Public Employee Relations Board ruled March 4 that its executive director, Ondray T. Harris, did not have jurisdiction to uphold a decision by Director Natasha Campbell of the Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining to not recognize Takisha Brown as the elected chairwoman of the Fraternal Order of Police/Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Labor Committee (FOP/DYRS).

Mr. Harris issued his order on Feb. 20, one day after Ms. Campbell sought approval of her decision. That decision included a directive to city officials that they not bargain with Ms. Brown but with FOP/DYRS Executive Board President Cedric Crawley until a dispute over leadership is resolved.

Ms. Campbell’s decision came one week after Ms. Brown filed several unfair labor practices complaints on behalf of her members. The FOP/DYRS last negotiated a contract in 2007. The controversy has drawn the attention of labor leaders who also have yet to negotiate new contracts with the city.

FOP/DYRS members elected Ms. Brown as chairwoman by a landslide in January 2012. But after she questioned union finances and fired its lawyer, Mr. Crawley, whose wife worked for the lawyer and whom union lawyers say is a manager who should not be in the union, led an effort to oust her.

The dispute — perpetuated by Ms. Campbell’s decision and Mr. Harris‘ summary order — has festered for more than a year. The administration of Mayor Vincent C. Gray insists it has no interest aside from respecting labor laws regarding union acknowledgment. But the FOP/DYRS accuses Ms. Campbell, a holdover from former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration, of meddling in an intra-union dispute fueled by efforts of a management-level employee to take over the union.

A lawsuit by the FOP/DYRS, pending in D.C. Superior Court, accuses Ms. Campbell of exceeding her authority. The FOP/DYRS seeks to compel Ms. Campbell to withdraw her decision not to acknowledge Ms. Brown as union chairperson, and to force her to remove Mr. Crawley from a union-eligible position, disqualifying him from the union board.

Meanwhile, the FOP/DYRS also has filed a complaint against Ms. Campbell with the Board of Elections and Ethics.

Documents obtained by The Washington Times show that under a previous administration, Mr. Crawley, a Grade 12 program analyst with supervisory duties at DYRS, was identified as a nonunion employee and removed from the American Federation of Government Employees Local 383.

In response to the PERB reversal of its executive director, and in turn Ms. Campbell, the Gray administration issued a brief statement: “We hope the union can resolve this dispute internally and, if not, look forward to the [board] deciding this matter and letting us know which person to work with.”

Ms. Brown replied: “The members and I are hopeful that [the city] will recognize that [the board] no longer stands behind Director Campbell’s decision, and that she will restore [the city’s] recognition of me as the exclusive representative of the FOP/DYRS.”