A coalition of union leaders on Tuesday rejected Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s pick to head the District’s troubled Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) and criticized the mayor for abandoning campaign promises to give labor a voice in his administration.
Mr. Gray recently appointed former DYRS general counsel and interim Director Neil Stanley to lead the agency, a decision that requires approval of the D.C. Council. Mr. Gray has said he consulted with the unions that represent DYRS workers in reaching a decision — a claim labor leaders dispute.
“Collectively, we are opposed to the mayor’s recommendation of Mr. Stanley,” said Eric Bunn, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2725, speaking on behalf of leaders with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Department of Corrections FOP Labor Committee, the Doctor’s Council, D.C. Nurses Association and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.
“First, we are seriously concerned that the mayor would say he spoke with organized labor when he has not yet met with union leaders to discuss this appointment or any other,” Mr. Bunn said.
Union leaders expressed concern that Mr. Stanley does not have enough specialized knowledge of juvenile justice issues. His tenure includes stints with various city agencies, including the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
The labor leaders also agreed that Mr. Stanley brings a legal perspective instead of an operational one.
“We’d like the mayor to look for someone who we feel is qualified to deal with this troubled agency,” Mr. Bunn said. “Mr. Stanley has been a legal advocate for that agency and we need someone who can address public safety, limited space at our 60-bed residential treatment facility, how we are pushing troubled youth back into community settings and how to monitor them once they are there.
“This isn’t an administrative job. You need to know what you are doing and have a foundation in dealing with committed youth.”
Chris Shorter, Mr. Stanley’s chief of staff, declined to comment on Gray administration personnel decisions.
Until now, Mr. Stanley has not been sufficiently engaged with running the department on a day-to-day basis, said Tasha Williams, president of the Corrections FOP Committee. “It’s like he was just waiting and letting other people run the place.”
Belinda Wiley, president of AFGE Local 383, said labor leaders became concerned when they were left off Mr. Gray’s transition team.
“We were out front supporting him, and we’re looking for a voice that we lacked with the last administration,” Ms. Wiley said.
Mr. Gray’s appointment of Mr. Stanley to head DYRS is not an isolated issue, according to Dwight Bowman, national vice president of AFGE’s 14th District.
“It’s not only who he picks, but how he does it,” Mr. Bowman said. “He should be consulting with us because of the integral role our members play in delivering services that affect the daily lives of the residents of this city.”