SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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FISCAL AND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES OF THE U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS
MARCH 17, 2005
Serial No. 10922
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAvailable via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/judiciary
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL ISSA, California
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
TOM FEENEY, Florida
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTRENT FRANKS, Arizona
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
ADAM SMITH, Washington
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on the Constitution
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STEVE CHABOT, Ohio, Chairman
TRENT FRANKS, Texas
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
STEVE KING, Iowa
TOM FEENEY, Florida
JERROLD NADLER, New York
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
PAUL B. TAYLOR, Chief Counsel
E. STEWART JEFFRIES, Counsel
HILARY FUNK, Counsel
MINDY BARRY, Full Committee Counsel
DAVID LACHMANN, Minority Professional Staff Member
C O N T E N T S
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMARCH 17, 2005
The Honorable Steve Chabot, a Representative in Congress from the State of Ohio, and Chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan
Mr. Russell G. Redenbaugh, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Mr. Michael Yaki, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Mr. Kenneth L. Marcus, Staff Director, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Mr. George Harbison, Director of Human Resources, and Acting Chief of Budget and Finance, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOral Testimony
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Prepared Statement of George Harbison, Director of Human Resources, and Acting Chief of Budget and Finance, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Response to post-hearing questions submitted by Chairman Steve Chabot to Michael Yaki, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Response to post-hearing questions submitted by Chairman Steve Chabot to Kenneth L. Marcus, Staff Director, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Response to post-hearing questions submitted by Chairman Steve Chabot to George Harbison, Director of Human Resources, and Acting Chief of Budget and Finance, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Letter of Resignation from Russell G. Redenbaugh, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to Majority Leader Bill Frist
Letter to Chairman Steve Chabot from Abigail Thernstrom, Vice Chairman, and Jennifer C. Braceras, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
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FISCAL AND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES OF THE U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
THURSDAY, MARCH 17, 2005
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on the Constitution,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:08 a.m., in Room 2143, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Steve Chabot (Chair of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. CHABOT. The Committee will come to order. If somebody wants to get the door back there. Thank you.
First of all, I want to wish everyone here happy St. Patrick's Day, one of the big occasions in our country and world history, and so we appreciate everybodyI even have my green on here today. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of folks the rest of the day that are so dressed.
We are here today for our Constitution Subcommittee oversight hearing on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. While this type of agency oversight hearing typically occurs every year, we have not held an oversight hearing for the Civil Rights Commission since 2002. While this gap can be attributed to a number of reasons, the period was not marked by a lack of oversight. In fact, during this time the Government Accounting Office, the GAO, has conducted four investigations on our behalf, and staff of the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary have been actively engaged in a direct investigation as well. All of these investigations have included looking into allegations of financial and administrative mismanagement by Commission leadership.
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We are here today to obtain additional information regarding the current status of the Commission from Commission representatives. I know you have a monthly Commission meeting tomorrow and recognize that your time is precious. So we thank you very much for being here today.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 established the United States Commission on Civil Rights as a nonpartisan fact-finding agency. The Commission is composed of eight members: four Commissioners are appointed by the President, two by the Speaker of the House, and two by the President pro tem of the Senate. Even though the Commission is an independent agency, its structure was designed to ensure that both Congress and the executive branch are stakeholders and have continued input into the Commission. The Commission has no enforcement power. The Commission fulfills its statutory mission by, first, investigating discrimination claims on the basis of color, race, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin; second, collecting and studying information; third, appraising laws and policies of the Federal Government; fourth, serving as a national clearinghouse for information; and, fifth, preparing public service announcements and advertising campaigns. As an agent both of Congress and the executive branch, the Commission must submit reports of its findings to Congress and the President.
Since the Commission's inception in 1957, Congress has extended the life of the Commission nine times. The Commission's latest authorization expired on September 30, 1996. Despite the lack of authority, Congress continues to appropriate the Commission roughly $9 million each year.
I have been personally involved in oversight of the Commission over the last several years in my capacity as Chairman of this Committee. This is my third term as such. I've witnessed the decline in the public's confidence in the Commission's work product under the previous Chair's direction. Nevertheless, I have high expectations for this Commission and for the important work of protecting civil rights. I am concerned, however, with reports that reforms, which were promised, have not yet been undertaken since new leadership has taken charge of the Commission.
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I believe that protecting civil rights is vital to protecting all of the rights afforded by the Constitution and codified in the Civil Rights Act. Thus, civil rights must continue to play a prominent role in American society.
In my position as Chairman of the Subcommittee, I'm committed to working to ensure that the Civil Rights Commission does the best work possible, not just for Congress and the President but for the American public.
I look back at how many times I and my Republican and Democratic predecessors were assured that the Commission was going to implement reforms that would allow the agency to function in a credible and efficient manner. I'm to date not at all satisfied with the Commission's reform efforts. Much needs to be done.
As we sit here today, changes have yet to be made. Let me be clear: My concern is not just with the financial and management practices that have been the subject of many investigations. I am also concerned deeply about the project process used by the Commission results in substantive material that does not stand up to academic scrutiny. This means that reports are being issued under the seal of the Federal Government that have not been tested for accuracy of bias. I believe that these practices, along with the financial and management changes, must be made so that the credibility of the Commission can be restored.
The mismanagement that has plagued the Commission for years undermines public confidence in the Commission's work. Unless the Commission institutes reforms to its operating practices, including to the methods that it uses to fulfill its statutory mission, the Commission will not be able to be a serious fact-finding agency that informs the public about the state of civil rights in America. In view of these concerns, I know that all Members look forward to hearing from our witnesses here this morning, and there will be a time for the issuing of subpoenas a bit later when we have a reporting anda working and reporting quorum, and then there ison an unrelated matter, on CIANA, there will be another hearingactually, not a hearing but a markup later on in this by the same Committee.
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Those are my remarks. Mr. Nadler is not yet here, so I don't know if Mr. Conyers or Mr. Watt would like to make an opening statement. Mr. Conyers?
Mr. CONYERS. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning
Mr. CHABOT. Good morning.
Mr. CONYERS. to all of our Committee Members and witnesses. I'd like to welcome you here and just suggest some things that we need to try to put in perspective.
First of all, we have a number of Commissioners that at least I haven't heard from or talked with, and what it suggests to me, Chairman Chabot, is that we may need another hearing just to get the lay of the new Commissioners and what their points of view are and who they are, really. We have missingor we haven't met with yet Commissioners Kirsanow, McReynolds, Taylor, and Meeks, and I think that that would be important for all of us to begin to get acquainted.
Now, how do we get the Civil Rights Commission on its feet again? Well, they only get $9 million, so this is not one of the world's greatest challenges that the Congress faces. It would seem to me that the unfreezing of the Commission budget would be incredibly important, and probably the sooner the better.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are going to have a meeting on the issuance of subpoenas, and, of course, the interesting thing is, is it to end the cycle of blame or is it going to continue the cycle of blame? I'd like all of you distinguished people here today to try to make sure I understand what it iswhere can we cut it off at from the past and get moving for the present.
In a more perfect world, I would probably like to see an independent manager that would relieve the Commissioners of the responsibility of trying to micromanage and deal with these large issues as well.
The other thing we have to develop is an agenda, Mr. Chairman, or the discussion around an agenda, and for that we probably would need Mr. McReynolds, and we'd like to get ideas from everybody as to what they see as the goal and role of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Now, let's assume that in the august chambers of the Judiciary Committee we couldwe'd come to this wonderful new agreement that I'm trying to outline here. Without State advisory commissions being re-energized, it's going to be very hard to get to the base of your work. So it seems to me that that could be one of the very important things that maybe the independent manager, if there were one, or the Commission itself could quickly take care of.
So that's how I view us starting off, Mr. Chairman, and I hope that we'll be able to work cooperatively toward that goal.
Mr. Keenan Keller suggests that I ask for permission, unanimous consent so that if there are additional questions that we want to send the Commissioners, we'd be able to do that.
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Mr. CHABOT. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you very much.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much, and I share many of the things which you stated in your opening statement, and I would hope that to the extent possible, although we don't do a lot of things in this august body in a bipartisan manner, with respect to civil rights it ought to be done in a bipartisan manner. And I look forward to working both with Mr. Nadler and yourself and any other Members that would like to do that.
Mr. CONYERS. Thanks so much.
Mr. CHABOT. We thank you as well.
Are there any other Members that would like to make opening statements? If not, we'll proceed with the introduction of the witnesses.
Our first witness here this morning will be Commissioner Russell Redenbaugh, and on a personal note, I'd like to recognize Commissioner Redenbaugh for his contributions to the Commission over the last 15 years. We were, I think, all disappointed to learn of his resignation and wish him the best in his future endeavors.
Mr. Redenbaugh is a financial and economic strategist, andexcuse me, economic and business adviser in building wealth and power, executive, author, teacher, and Commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. He is the managing director of Kairos, Inc., in Philadelphia, PA, which both invests in and advises companies that are undergoing fundamental changes, all of which are producing innovations in either or both their products and business models. He has been a Commissioner, as I mentioned, of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for 15 years since being appointed on February 8, 1990. Commissioner Redenbaugh has served as an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences where he designed and taught a graduate course entitled ''Work Process Redesign Theory and New Practices in the Dynamics of Organization Program.'' He is currently a director of the Joseki Group in Menlo Park, CA, Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia, PA, and the Lexington Institute in Washington, D.C. He is a recipient of the Louis Braille Award given by Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia, PA. In his spare time, Commissioner Redenbaugh became the 1997 National Jujitsu Federation Champion, the 2003 and 2004 World Jujitsu Federation World Champion, and participated in running the torch across America for the U.S. Olympic Committee in advance of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Finally, Commissioner Redenbaugh is widely published on topics ranging from management reforms to financial strategy to civil rights. He is a chartered financial analyst and a chartered investment counselor and received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and his B.S. from the University of Utah. And we thank you and appreciate your being here this morning, Mr. Redenbaugh.
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The second witness will be Commissioner Michael Yaki. Commissioner Yaki was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in February 2005. He is a partner in the San Francisco law firm of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmo, and prior to joining his present firm was a partner in another law firm. Since 1999, he has been a freelance writer, authoring editorials for the San Francisco Chronicle on sports, politics, and international relations. He has contributed to The New York Times Opinion/Editorial section and has been a commentator on several radio stations. Commissioner Yaki was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1996 to 2001. He was the convener and Chair of the first citywide Summit on Children and Youth in 1996. He also was the Chair of San Francisco Transportation Authority, the director of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, of the California State Association of Counties, of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and of the San Francisco Employee Retirement System. He has been a lecturer of political science and urban studies at San Francisco State University. He also was the district director for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Commissioner Yaki received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and was a law clerk to the Honorable Harry Low in the California Court of Appeals.
In his spare time, Commissioner Yaki is a director of the San Francisco Zoological Society and was the founder of the Presidio Day Camp for Underprivileged Children, was an elementary school volunteer reader, was the host and a fundraiser for the Tiger Woods Community Foundation Golf Clinic, and was the fundraising campaign Chair for the Say Yes Summer Youth Jobs Program. He is the recipient of the San Francisco Bay Area YMCA Building Strong Kids Award, a two-time recipient of the FDR Club for Persons with Disabilities Legislator of the Year Award, and the Organization of Chinese Americans Community Service Award. And we welcome you here this morning, Mr. Yaki.
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Our third witness is the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Staff Director, Kenneth Marcus. Mr. Marcus was appointed to this position by President George W. Bush with the concurrence of the Commission on December 6th, so he's actually only been in this position for several months now. As Staff Director, he serves as the agency's chief executive officer, responsible for providing leadership and direction to the agency staff. In this position, Mr. Marcus continues his long-time work of combating discrimination and working on behalf of those who have been denied basic constitutional and civil rights. Mr. Marcus is an experienced civil rights attorney, litigator, and leader.
Before assuming his current duties, Mr. Marcus was delegated the authority of Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights and served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for Enforcement. As head of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, Mr. Marcus was the principal civil rights adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Education and oversaw the resolution of approximately 5,000 civil rights cases per year through the office's 12 enforcement offices.
While in this position, he developed and implemented proactive enforcement initiatives and issued policy guidance in several areas. Mr. Marcus also served at the time as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Brown v. Board of Education.
Prior to joining the Department of Education, Mr. Marcus served in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. As head of HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Mr. Marcus was the principal civil rights adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and oversaw the work of the office's 54 offices.
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As HUD's civil rights chief, Mr. Marcus developed initiatives and oversaw HUD's Office of Departmental Equal Employment Opportunity in its section 3 program office. Before entering public service, Mr. Marcus served as a litigation partner in two law firms, where he successfully represented individuals who had been denied constitutional and civil rights. Mr. Marcus is a graduate of Williams College and the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. We welcome you here this morning, Mr. Marcus.
And our final witness here is George Harbison. Mr. Harbison is the Acting Director of Budget and Finance and is the Director of Human Resources for the Civil Rights Commission. Prior to assuming these positions, he was the Director of Budget and Finance for the Commission for approximately the past 14 years, and we welcome you here, Mr. Harbison.
It's the practice of this Committee to swear in all witnesses appearing before it, so if you would all please stand and raise your right hand.
Mr. CHABOT. All witnesses have answered in the affirmative, and you can all be seated.
We appreciate, as we said, your presence here this morning. I know that you have a meeting tomorrow, so we know it is perhaps inconvenient to do two things of such importance in such close proximity, so we do appreciate your presence. And as I know that you're aware, we have a 5-minute rule here where we would ask each witness to testify for up to 5 minutes. We will give you a little leeway beyond that if you need to wrap up. We have a lighting system. It will be green for 4 minutes, turn yellow when you have 1 minute, and then red when your 5 minutes is complete, and we'd ask that you please wrap up as close to that time as possible.
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And, Mr. Redenbaugh, you would be our first witness here this morning, so you are recognized for 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF RUSSELL G. REDENBAUGH, COMMISSIONER, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Well, thank you, Chairman Chabot, and Subcommittee Members and staff. Thank you for holding this hearing and for inviting me here.
As you all know, I am resigning from the Commission. What I would like to make clear is I'm resigning not because I object to the particular projects or programs that have been put forward, but because I object to us not making reform our highest and most urgent priority.
In my private life, I advise companies on how to manage themselves. I've managed a half a dozen companies. And I look at organizations through the lens of purpose, processes, and peoplethe purpose being, you know, that mighty theme or that mighty objective that unifies us. The processes define how we're going to work together to accomplish that purpose. It defines the accountabilities, who will do what by when. And the people, and the people must work through those processes and share that purpose. And an organization that gets all three of those right can do truly remarkable things.
At the Commission we don't have a clear purpose. We have agendas. As you all know, we don't have processes. We don't have a process for financial accountability. We don't have a process for accountability with respect to our projects. And given that we don't have the purpose or processes, the people can't possibly work together as a team. And, you know, we have never been a team.
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But there's something about the design of the organization and of the organization that's even more of a fatal flaw than any of that, and that is, this agency has defined itself as a special independent agency, independent of the executive branch, independent of the Congress, certainly independent of its oversight Committee, independent from GAO recommendations, from OMB, and independent from GPRA, in fact, even independent from some of the civil rights laws that we support. You can see this by examining some of our EEOC cases.
And this independence, the way we've interpreted it, means that we can never reform ourselves because we don't have clients or customers.
Now, I think tomorrow, in tomorrow's meeting, there will be a new enthusiasm for reform, and I suspect there will be a great many reform measures adopted, probably unanimously. But I caution that that which is adopted tomorrow can be ignored next month or unadopted next year.
So if you're inclined to give this Commission yet another chance, my recommendation would be that you collateralize those promises of reform with changes in the statute that give this Commission the accountability that all organizations need to have.
My own recommendation, though, is that you close this Commission and start another one. For far too long, Congress has felt that having a bad Civil Rights Commission was better than having no Civil Rights Commission. And I commend this Subcommittee for not accepting such a low standard. The country does deserve far better.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I'd take out a blank sheet of paper, and I'd ask you to do this as Congressman Conyers suggested, in a nonpartisan way, and ask the question: What is the purpose of the Civil Rights Commission today? Because when this Commission was originally constituents in the 1950's, its purpose was a mighty one. It was to be the conscience of America, and America needed a conscience. And through the work of many people and this Commission in part, that conscience manifest and produced the civil rights legislation that we have today.
So the situations are very different. We still have discrimination and too much of it. But those of us who are discriminated against have many powerful remedies. We don't need, as one of those remedies, the weak, inconsistent, anemic, conflicted voice of this Commission. We deserve better. The country deserves better.
And so to misquote someone who's a far better communicator than I am, my advice to you would be to ''End it, don't mend it.''
I'll be happy to answer any of your questions, and I'd like to submit additional written testimony for the record, if I may.
Mr. CHABOT. Without objection, it will be so submitted.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Redenbaugh follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF RUSSELL G. REDENBAUGH
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing and for inviting me to testify today. As you know, I have resigned from the commission. I did this because I became convinced that the problem with this commission is structural and unfixable. I used to believe that the problem was political or based on personalities, but it is neither of those.
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Let me say a little bit about my background, I understand organizations. I've studied them for 35 years. I've written widely on them. I've managed several companies and have consulted many on organizational design. I know what it takes to produce remarkable results. Remarkable results are produced by patters of behavior, and it's the organization's structure and processes that determine those patterns of behavior. I know if I want to change the results in a company, I need to change the structure.
In the organizational design business we use the short hand of the 3 p's: purpose, process, people. To be a high performance organization you must get all 3 right. From time to time every organization needs to be reformed, that means a new structure and new processes. In business strong organizations are built by having many satisfied customers and in business the incentive to reform comes from defecting customers.
Now let's talk about the civil rights commission. We don't have a clear purpose, we don't have clear processes, we don't have the minimal financial controls, and our structure is fatally flawed. Our structure allows us to cloak ourselves with the myth of our independence. It's lent some commissioners to believe that we don't have customers. Well if we don't have customers then we don't have any consequences for not reforming or any incentive to make those necessary changes.
The commission has no clear purpose. Purpose, the first of the 3 p's, is the glue that unifies and binds an organization together. An organization's purpose is what we are willing to work hard for in order to produce remarkable results. This commission doesn't have a clear purpose. The conditions that existed in this country when the commission was put in place have changed dramatically. This structure may have been the right structure for dealing with those conditions, which were state supported institutional racism, but the structure does not work for what is needed to combat discrimination and disparities today. Congress tweaked the structure in 1983 but adopted another inappropriate model. We still have much discrimination, but the government now runs a multibillion-dollar apparatus to protect our rights. Think of all the bulwarks against discrimination in the major federal and state agencies and all the volumes of antidiscrimination laws on the books. People who are discriminated against deserve these remedies. They don't deserve the inarticulate, confused, and conflicted voice of the civil rights commission.
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The commission's processes are fatally flawed and cannot be reformed. I do not believe that this commission will ever reform itself. The changes that need to be made are structural. The principle structural problem is the claim by some commissioners' that ''independence'' means that we don't have customers. Another structural problem is that commissioners are appointed by the executive branch and the congress, which leaves the political accountability splintered. The commission is composed of an even number of commissioners; this makes for gridlock. Another problem is that commissioners are part-time and staff is full-time. Given this structure there need to be clear processes that prevent a staff director from hijacking the commissioners' agenda. These processes do not exist at the civil rights commission.
''End it, don't mend it'' I could say much more. The mismanagement, the corruption, the arrogance, the disregard of the statute, of GPRA, of OMB, and of GAO recommendations is well documented. This is an agency that considers itself above the law and above civil rights laws, just look at our EEOC record. I believed for many years that these were problems of politics and personalities, but as I said before I am completely convinced that this is a problem of structure and process. That we didn't move immediately to correct these institutional problems convinces me that we never will. I can no longer associate myself with an organization that is both a national and a personal embarrassment. To misquote a far better communicator than myself, ''End it don't mend it''
Mr. CHABOT. We appreciate your testimony this morning.
Commissioner Yaki, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTESTIMONY OF MICHAEL YAKI, COMMISSIONER, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
Mr. YAKI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank the Chair and the Ranking Member for inviting me to testify today. As you know, I'm the newest member of the Commission, and I am actually deeply honored to have joined the Commission on Civil Rights last month.
As a first matter of business, I want to thank Commissioner Redenbaugh for his 15 years of service. Although I disagree with his conclusion today, no one can deny that the 15 years of service to the Commission and to this country is beyond reproach, and I just want to thank him for all the inspiration that he has provided to people in this country.
But I disagree with his conclusions because during the past half-century, the Civil Rights Commission has taken its independent fact-finding and recommendation powers seriously and substantively. Its 1961 report was the basis for the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Its hearings on disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And over time, the Commission has adapted to the changing face of bias and discrimination in America. Its 1978 Commission report on domestic violence put that issue on the national agenda for the first time, and its 1983 Commission report on the challenges that Americans with disabilities faced led to the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Has it been perfect in how and why it addresses certain issues? Absolutely not. But has it provoked debate, discussion, and made policymakers stand up and take notice? Absolutely yes. And that is why I am here today. I'm here to speak on my own behalf as a new Commissioner, to say that while the business of this Committee with respect to ensuring fiscal responsibility and management is important, it is equally important that the business of the Commission be allowed to continue.
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I am unable because I am new to substantiate or deny the charges of financial mismanagement at the Commission. I come basically with a clean slate. But I can tell you as a former local legislator who bore responsibility for a $4 billion budget with 25,000 employees, this type of hearing is not unfamiliar to me. It is a very serious responsibility that we undertake to ensure that taxpayer funds are not squandered needlessly, especially during tough budgetary times.
I have read the GAO reports, and I can assure you that as a former congressional aide and a former local legislator that no one takes the GAO lightly. But when faced with these allegations at the local level, it is important to take swift and corrective action, which this Committee is working to do. It is important to ascertain whether it is isolated or systemic. It is important to put in appropriate controls and to assure the public that we responded on their behalf.
But equally important is to understand that the department, agency, or bureau in question still has a public mission to perform. And, therefore, it is important to ensure that any remedial or corrective action be carefully and narrowly tailored to ensure that it does not hinder the public function of that particular agency.
I am not here to understate the GAO or the hearings and intent of this Committee. But I think it's important to put in relative scale that it is going to be far easier to treat the problems of a $9 million Commission than a multi-billion-dollar department. Mr. Marcus to my left has outlined a response, and I will be in support of these reasonable reforms that will put the Commission back on track fiscally and managerial. But consider that just last year the GAO reported that between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department lost more than $100 million in taxpayer money on unused airplane tickets. Now, let me repeat that. That's $100 million in airplane fares that they could have cashed in, and that is 10 times more than the entire budget of the Commission on Civil Rights.
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But just as it would not make any sense to stop the DOD from protecting our homeland simply because they made financial mistakes, albeit on a possibly mind-boggling scale to a taxpayer, it does not make any sense to impose actions or controls on the Commission that hampers its investigative and fact-finding functions. It is, therefore, my plea to this Committee that you recognize that not only must the mission of this Commission go on, but also recognize that the Commission actually needs additional resources, guarded by appropriate and adequate fiscal controls to continue its mission.
In fact, it is astonishing that the Commission and staff have been able to do what they have done over the past few years, given its very low staffing and fiscal constraints.
As an independent agency, the Commission can venture where Department Secretaries and administrative heads fear to tread. It can question the efficacy of existing Government programs, policies, and enforcement. The targets of discrimination, the tools used to discriminate have changed and evolved. But the fact that discrimination remains, as Commissioner Redenbaugh has said, cannot be seriously disputed. And thus the need for the Commission remains.
As a watchdog, fact-finder, and policy conscience, there's much that the Commission can and will do in the future to help Congress and the executive branch and the general public to assure that there is true equal protection under the laws. And while I commend this Committee in protecting the taxpayer dollar and working to reform this Commission, this Commission also has its continuing duty to protect civil rights of our country. These goals are not mutually exclusive, and with mutual cooperation and assistance, we can achieve both these goals. And the Commission will continue, as President Eisenhower's Attorney General said in 1957, to continue to ''chart a course of progress to guide us in the years ahead.''
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Thank you for your time and consideration of my views, and I'm available for your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Yaki follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MICHAEL YAKI
I want to thank the Chair and the Ranking Member for inviting me to testify today. As a preliminary matter, I am deeply honored to have joined the Commission on Civil Rights last month. The responsibility first placed upon the Commission by President Eisenhower nearly fifty years ago is a mantle I will wear with pride. Briefly, my background includes having recently been a local elected legislator for the City and County of San Francisco for 5 years, overseeing with my colleagues an annual budget of over $4 billion with nearly 25,000 employees. I have also served as a Congressional Staff Director for the Minority Leader and been a practicing securities attorney after completion of my legal education at the Yale Law School and clerkship with California Court of Appeal Judge Harry Low in California. I am now practicing as a partner at a California-based business law firm.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights has been called the ''watchdog'' of civil rights for this country. Created in the 1957 Civil Rights Actthe first meaningful, if tentative step this country took towards ending the Jim Crow erait was envisioned by President Eisenhower as a bipartisan, fact-finding panel charged with investigating and making recommendations to the Executive and Legislative branches on how to end discrimination in this country.
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Over the past half-century, the Civil Rights Commission has taken its fact-finding and recommendation powers seriously and substantively. Its 1961 Report was considered by the Congress and the Supreme Court as the intellectual and factual grounding for the provisions of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Its hearings on the blatant, deliberate disenfranchisement of African Americans in southern precincts and parishes formed the basis of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Over time, the Commission has helped America recognize the changing face of bias and discrimination. In 1978 a Commission Report challenging law enforcement agencies to recognize domestic violence as a crime put it on the national agenda, and by the late 1980's Congress mandated the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration to focus on the ''role of the criminal justice system in preventing and controlling violence and abusive behavior in the home. And the Congress relied on a 1983 Civil Rights Commission report on the challenges disabled persons faced in their daily lives in enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the 90's and through the dawn of this new century, the Commission has begun tackling many other challenges, including studying civil rights matters facing Native Americans and Native Hawaiians and issuing reports to Congress detailing policy and legislative failures and loopholes that continue to deny equal protection under the law to these most ancient Americans. Has it been perfect in how and why it addresses certain issues? Absolutely not. Has it provoked debate, discussion, and made policymakers stand up and notice? Absolutely yes.
Herbert Brownell, President Eisenhower's Attorney General, summed up the scope of the Commission best when he testified before this very Subcommittee 48 years ago this February in stating that:
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''Above and beyond the need for improving the legal remedies for dealing with specific civil rights violations is the need for greater knowledge and understanding of all of the complex problems involved. . . . [T]here is no agency anywhere in the executive branch of the federal government with authority to investigate general allegations of civil rights. . . . [T]he Commission proposed by the President would present the means of securing this vitally needed information.''
The Jim Crow era may have ended, but anyone who believes that we have become a nation completely without malice towards people of color, towards new immigrants, towards those who believe or worship differently is, with all due respect, deliberately hiding their head in the proverbial sand. All we need to do is look at the incredible jump in hate crimes towards Arabs and Muslim Americans since 9/11; but we do not need to confine ourselves to the most obvious victims to know what is true. Neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism still exists; there remain school districts where inequalities remain divided by race; and minority- and women-owned businesses still encounter substantial hurdles to economic parity left over from decades of exclusion.
And that is why I am here today. I am here to speak on my own behalf, as a Commissioner, to say that while the business of this Committee with respect to ensuring fiscal responsibility is important, it is equally important that the business of the Commission be allowed to continue.
I am unable to substantiate or deny the charges of financial mismanagement at the Commission. I come, if you may, with a clean slate. As a former local legislator in who bore responsibility for a $4 billion dollar city and county budget, this type of hearing is not unfamiliar territory. It is a deep and very serious responsibility to ensure that taxpayer funds are not squandered needlessly at any time, including and especially in pressing budgetary times.
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I have read the GAO reports and I can assure you that as a former congressional staffer and a former local legislator that I do not take any GAO report lightly.
I can communicate to you my impression that the present Commission views its duty to ensure fiscal responsibility very seriously. In my very first meetings after being told of my appointment, both the Chairman and the Staff Director were very frank about their intent to hold the agency accountable in the ways detailed in the GAO reports. In my conversations with my new colleagues, the manner of fiscal accountability is very important.
However, it is equally important to separate the past from the present and the future. Even if there was mismanagementwhich I cannot deny nor confirmthe fact is, that these allegations are associated with a regime that no longer exists at the Commission. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I should also state that I am an admirer of Ms. Berry's lifelong commitment to civil rights and to minority communities in this country.
But I understand the scope of this hearing. When I was faced at the local level with allegations of mismanagement of government resources, it was important to take swift corrective action. It was important to ascertain whether it was an isolated, or systemic problem. It was important to put in appropriate controls to ensure that it did not happen again. It was important to assure the public that we had responded on their behalf.
But equally important was to understand that the department, agency, or bureau still had a mission to perform. Missions that were important to members of the public. And, therefore, it was important to ensure that any remedial or corrective action be carefully and narrowly tailored to ensure that it did not hinder the public function that all government agencies perform.
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It is easy to punish an entire agency, especially one as small as the Commission. In San Francisco, as with many cities and counties of size in this country, the Commission's $9 million budget would be dwarfed by health, public safety, and other departments. In comparison to the trillion dollar federal budget, $9 million may be barely noticed.
Understanding the scale of the problemand the scale of the solutionis paramount in this case. The cure cannot kill the patient.
To be perfectly honest, we may go on about lack of controls. We may pontificate about waste of taxpayer assets. But can we honestly say that our concern about misspending in a $9 million dollar agency should outstrip concern for waste that is in the tens, or hundreds of millions? It is not to belittle the findings of the GAO or the hearings of this Committee. It is to put in relative scale, however, that it is far easier to treat the problems of a $9 million dollar Commission than a multi-billion dollar Department.
Just last year the GAO reported that between 1997 and 2003 the Defense Department lost more than $100 million dollars in unused airplane tickets. Let me repeat that. The DoD forgot to cash in more than $100 million dollars in plane fares. For the average taxpayerthe person in whose shoes I stood as a legislator and you stand as Members of this esteemed House$100 million dollars is waste on a massive scale.
But the ultimate mission, the purpose of the organization must go on. Just as it would not make any sense to stop the Department of Defense from protecting our homeland, or liberating a foreign country from the yoke of tyranny, simply because they made financial mistakesin the case of airline tickets, on a truly grand and mind-boggling scaleit does not make any sense to impose actions or controls on the Civil Rights Commission that hampers its investigative and fact-finding functions.
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It is therefore my heartfelt plea to this Committee that you recognize that not only must the mission of the Commission go on, but also recognize that the Commission needs additional resourcesguarded by appropriate and adequate fiscal controlsto continue its mission.
The fact is that as a Commission, we are starved for resources. Let me elaborate, based again only upon my short tenure with the Commission.
Our State Advisory Committees are languishing from neglect, neglect caused by a paucity of funding. The State Advisory Committees are one of the most important means of obtaining information and insight on civil rights issues on the ground. With the number of issues confronting our limited time and agendas, the SACs have produced and will continue to produce some of the most important civil rights reports for this country. Yet we have barely staffing for one or two professional staff responsible for multi-state jurisdictions totaling tens of millions in population. The SAC's can't meet because we can't afford to reimburse them for plane, train, and car faresthe least we could contribute given the volunteer time and commitment of SAC members. When we consider, as Justice Brandeis did, that the states are the ''laboratories of democracy,'' the fact that the Commission, and, therefore, the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government are deprived of their information, experience, and input due to lack of funding is a loss on a truly national scale. Can we truly say that this programmatic and mission loss is the price we must pay for any past financial transgressions?
I cannot speak for the entire Commission, but I can also say that it is already apparent to me that the agenda of the Commission itself has been affected by the constant demand for documents, the need for retasking already overworked employees. The fact is that attention must be paid to answering complaints, preparing reports, and crafting policy recommendations. But the reality is that critical resources must be diverted just to keep the bare functionality of the Commission. It is somewhat astonishing that the Commission and its staff have been able to accomplish producing reports and conducting hearings given its recent staffing and fiscal constraints.
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As an independent agency, the Commission can venture where Department Secretaries and Administrative heads fear to treadit can question the efficacy of existing government programs and policies. The targets of discrimination, the tools used to discriminate may have changed or evolved. But the fact that discrimination remains cannot be seriously disputed. And thus the need for the Commission remains.
I am hoping the Commission will investigate the collateral damage to civil rights as a result of the Patriot Act, which is up for reauthorization this year. The Voting Rights Act comes up for reauthorization in 2007, and rather than have talking heads trade insults on its continued vitality, we need to take a fact-based look at disenfranchisement issues in all communities of our country. And there are many issues relating to educational and economic equality for minorities, women and the disabled, and other communities that I believe still need to be addressed.
There are issues that some Commissioners will agree with, and others in which we will disagree. Reasonable people can come to different conclusions from the same set of facts and circumstances, but it requires resources to access those facts and circumstances.
I close again with the words of Herbert Brownell. In urging the Senate to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and in specific, to pass Title I creating the Civil Rights Commission, he stated in a letter to the Senate:
''[W]e must find out all of the factsthe extent, the methods, the result. . . . Civil rights are of primary concern to all our people. To this end, the Commission's membership must be truly bipartisan. . . . The Commission will have authority to hold public hearing. Knowledge and understanding of every element of the problem will give greater clarity and perspective to one of the most difficult problems facing our country. . . . Investigation and hearings will bring into sharper focus the areas of responsibility of the federal government and of the states under our constitutional system. Through greater public understanding, therefore, the Commission may chart a course of progress to guide us in the years ahead.''
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As watchdog, fact-finder, and policy conscience, there is much that the Commission can and will do in the future to help Congress, the Executive Branch and the general public ensure that there is true equal protection under the laws of our country for all Americans. While I commend the zeal of this Committee in protecting Americans' tax dollars, this Commission also has a duty to protect the civil rights of our country. These goals are not mutually exclusive and with mutual cooperation and assistance, we can achieve both these goals. And the Commission will continue to chart a course of progress to guide us in the years ahead.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my views. I am available for your questions.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much, Commissioner Yaki. We appreciate your testimony.
Mr. Marcus, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF KENNETH L. MARCUS, STAFF DIRECTOR, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
Mr. MARCUS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Minority Member. I am also delighted to have an opportunity to address you today, and I am also saddened that this will be one of my last opportunities to work with Commissioner Redenbaugh, whose departure I am sad to acknowledge. On the other hand, we are certainly delighted to have Commissioner Yaki now on board to join us.
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Many have found fault with the Commission's management and finances, and I certainly join in acknowledging that there are many, many respects in which the Commission requires very substantial systematic reform. I would like to emphasize, though, by way of preface that this agency has over a period of nearly 50 years had extraordinary accomplishments in bringing public attention to matters which otherwise in many instances would not have received attention. In all of the 50 States and at a national level, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has countless times over the decades reminded us of our basic obligations under the Constitution and laws of the United States.
At the same time, the present is a very difficult time for the Commission on Civil Rights. Those of us who are new to the Commission have inherited an agency in crisis with profound management and financial challenges as well as challenges regarding project planning that we must face in short order. Many of the challenges have been well documented over a period of years by the Government Accountability Office in the reports to which the Chairman made reference earlier this morning. These challenges include weak internal financial and project planning controls as well as an unsustainable budgetary situation.
At the same time, we have a committed staff which is working very hard under difficult circumstances based on their commitment to civil rights and their belief that it is important that they work as hard as they can, even under these uncertainties, to try and protect those who would otherwise face discrimination, hatred, and injustice.
The GAO reports which have been referenced have described a lack of good project management and transparency in contracting procedures and elsewhere, have referred to weaknesses in the way in which resources have been used, have described a lack of strategic planning, and have in general painted a portrait of an agency that has had little financial control, weak management, and little accountability.
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Those reports go to a period of time at which I was, of course, not present at the agency, and I cannot speak to things that happened before I was here. What I can say is that it is clear to me, as to the Commissioners, that fundamental changes do need to be made, need to be made deliberately, need to be made thoughtfully, and need to be made quickly.
We have already in a short 3 months begun to tackle the task of solving the problems that developed over a period of years and even decades. But it is a process that will take some time, both because the problems are difficult and also because the body is, of course, a deliberative one which works as a panel.
Some of the changes that we have looked at and even instituted involve implementation of GAO recommendations. For instance, we have already implemented or issued directives to implement over 20 of the recommendations that GAO has made, even within the first couple of months. It is certainly my highest priority to reform the management and financial structure of the Commission starting with those challenges which have been identified by the GAO and the Office of Personnel Management, and I think that we have at least made a step forward in addressing those.
Commissioner Redenbaugh also indicated that there are other reforms which have been discussed and may be raised during the meeting tomorrow. The Commission, as one of its very first acts, established a working group on reform to address internal and external communication matters and project planning. Commissioner Redenbaugh has chaired the meetings of that body, and I expect that through the working group on reform there will be additional substantial reforms that are recommended to the full Commission, which I hope will address many of the concerns that have been raised today.
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In general, I would say that the challenges that we have in terms of our internal structure are very serious ones, but there is a very strong commitment by the Commissioners that I share to acknowledging those problems, identifying them, and solving them deliberately but quickly.
In addition to the structural problems, we also, of course, have very serious budgetary constraints within this fiscal year. We had been spending money at a pace which is unsustainable within our current appropriations. In fact, as of the time that I arrived, we were spending money at a pace which would exhaust our budget far before the end of the fiscal year. So our most urgent concern is to establish cost-cutting constraints to make sure that we live within our budget. Beyond that, we are very highly focused on establishing reforms to make sure that we are functioning properly as an agency not only because it's required by law and by the GAO recommendations, but also because our commitment is to ensuring that this agency is able managerially and financially to achieve its mission.
We all believe that the mission of this agency is vitally important, and I am dedicated to ensuring that we have the level of management necessary in order to meet that mission.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak and, of course, will be available to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Marcus follows:]
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Kenneth L. Marcus, and I have served as Staff Director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights since mid-December 2004. The Commission is an independent bipartisan agency established by Congress in 1957 to investigate complaints alleging that citizens are being deprived of their right to vote for reason of their race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or by reason of fraudulent practices; to study and collect information relating to discrimination or a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Constitution because of the same bases; to appraise federal laws and policies with respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of the same bases; to serve as a national clearinghouse for information in respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of the same bases; to submit reports, findings, and recommendations to the President and Congress; and to issue public service announcements to discourage discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws. The Commission has been called the ''conscience of the Nation'' on civil rights matters, and our recommendations to Congress have often led to the enactment of critical legislation.
I would like to preface my remarks today by thanking the Chairman and the Subcommittee for the opportunity to address today the challenges we face as an agency and the internal reforms we are implementing at the Commission. As you are certainly aware, the Commission has some extraordinary organizational and financial challenges to address.
Those of us who are new to the Commission have inherited an agency in crisis, with profound management and financial challenges that we must face in short order. Many of these challenges have been well documented, over a period of years, by the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Personnel Management, and other entities. The challenges include weak internal, financial and project planning controls, as well as an unsustainable budgetary situation. These challenges pose a need for serious and significant reform. The GAO has issued three reports on the Commission since 1997 that bring a number of problem areas into focusmost notably management, financial accountability, and the quality and integrity of Commission projects.
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The July 1997 GAO report, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Agency Lacks Basis Management Controls (GAO/HEHS97125), found broad management problems at the Commission, including limited awareness of how its resources were used. The GAO used blunt language to describe the status of this agency announcing, ''the Commission appears to be an agency in disarray with limited awareness of how its resources are used.'' At the time, the GAO reported that the Commission could not provide key cost information for its regional offices, complaints referral process, clearinghouse, public service announcements, and at least one project. It also reported that the Commission had not established accountability for resources and did not maintain appropriate documentation of agency operations.
An October 2003 GAO report, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: More Operational and Financial Oversight Needed (GAO0418), found that the Commission lacked good project management and transparency in its contracting procedures. This report also found that the Commission had made a number of management improvements, including establishing policies that clarify the roles of senior management, preparing more detailed budget information for better fiscal administration, and instituting various project management procedures to meet target deadlines, since the GAO's last report in 1997.
The October 2004 GAO report, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Management Could Benefit From Improved Strategic Planning and Increased Oversight (GAO0577), found that the Commission had not fully complied with the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). For example, the report had found that the Commission had not updated or revised its strategic plan since 1997. This report recommended improved strategic planning and increased oversight.
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In general, the GAO's reports paint a portrait of an agency that was run out of control with little financial control, weak management, and little accountability. They are a wake-up call for this agency that we must implement substantial change and reform in order to meet our fiscal responsibilities and to restore public trust and confidence in us as ''the conscience of the Nation'' on civil rights.
When I arrived at the Commission in December 2004, I found little that was inconsistent with the GAO's highly critical assessment. The Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt previously provided accounting services to the Commission, but terminated its relationship with the Commission effective fiscal year 2004, citing concerns regarding the agency's financial responsibility.
A September 9, 2003 letter from the Department of Treasury to my predecessor, the Honorable Leslie Jin, provided to me by the Department of Treasury, reads in part as follows:
As an accounting service provider, we are assuming a high level of responsibility for management and control of federal government resources. To effectively perform our services, we must rely upon a strong system of internal controls, which includes prudent oversight and management of budgetary resources by our customer agencies . . . Based upon our experience in servicing your agency, we believe there is inadequate management and control oversight of your agency's funds.
At the time, the Department of the Treasury was particularly concerned about the Commission's over obligation of its fiscal year 2003 budget authority and its failure to take adequate corrective action to avoid violating the Anti-Deficiency Act. In short, the Commission's financial controls had deteriorated to the point last fiscal year that another agency of the federal government refused to continue to service its account.
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My predecessor was forced to seek a new accounting services provider in the midst of these challenges. The agency entered into an agreement with Booth Management Corporation in the middle of the fiscal year. That contractor is a small company seriously challenged by the difficulties of entering into a relationship in the midst of a fiscal year. Compounding this difficulty is the limited experience that it has with providing full service accounting to a federal agency and the difficult relationship that it had developed with Commission staff and other contractors.
Additionally, the Commission had not had an independent audit of its books for many years. The agency now finally is currently in the process of obtaining its first independent audit. The Parker, Whitfield firm is conducting the limited scope audit of the agency's balance sheet. Mr. Ernest Parker of the Parker, Whitfield firm has taken charge of the audit personally. This audit, originally scheduled for completion within a three to four-week time frame, is now in its fourth month, and his firm is not able to predict the length of time required to conclude the audit. Mr. Parker has attributed this difficulty in completing the audit to the Commission's failure to be forthcoming with financial records prior to my arrival. He has not leveled this charge specifically at any employee of the Commission but to at least one outside firm working on behalf of the Commission. More troubling, this independent audit informed me that, as of fall 2004, the Commission's financial records were in such disarray that it had no financial ledger whatsoever. This has since been remedied, but many other accounting practices are difficult or impossible to reform during the middle of a fiscal year.
As a result of the lack of accountability and transparency, the financial condition of the agency has been a substantial challenge for quite some time. The Commission's current budget for fiscal year 2005 is $9,023,232. This is essentially unchanged from the prior fiscal year and has been held flat now for many years. At the same time, our primary expenses, specifically salaries and benefits, have continued to rise. Moreover, we are saddled with various expenses incurred during prior fiscal years but not yet paid. For example, the Commission's prior management deferred payment of approximately $75,000 for 2004 rent, which we must pay this year. Similarly, we are now obligated this year to pay approximately $188,000 in equal employment opportunity claims against the Commission's former management out of $355,000 in civil rights claims resolved against or settled by prior management over the last five years. As of my arrival, the spending plans and assumptions of the Commission placed the agency on course to overspend its appropriations by a considerable sum. We are now working on cost-cutting measures to close this gap and provide us with a sufficient cushion against unexpected costs that we can assure that we are living within our means.
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Administrative Instructions Addressing Integrity and Accountability
The Commission has begun to implement many reforms to strengthen accountability and transparency at the Commission, as well as address GAO recommendations in those areas. In my short time at the Commission, I have already issued three administrative instructions (AIs) that begin the long process of curing the substantial deficiencies at the Commission.
These administrative instructionsAI's 315, 316 and 421, all issued on March 11, 2005implemented 29 GAO recommendations with respect to financial accounting and expense tracking, with AI 316 alone implementing approximately 21 of those 29.
AI 315 establishes guidelines to ensure that the Commission recognizes payroll expenses in the proper period for accounting purposes. Specifically, AI 315:
Asks Commissioners to submit timesheets to the Commission tracking their billable hours, either on a once-per-pay-period or monthly basis;
Provides for submission of the timesheets to the Office of the Staff Director for signature in a timely fashion and eventual submission of the signed timesheet to the Human Resources Division; and
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Requires the Executive Secretary for the Staff Director to follow up on Commissioners' timesheets that have not yet been received by the second Thursday of a pay period.
AI 316 embraces a wide variety of reforms to ensure that non-salary expenditures have proper authorization, approval, and supporting documentation. Among other things, these reforms direct the Chief of the Budget and Finance Division to:
Periodically review accounts to identify unusual balances;
Keep appropriate documentation in transaction files to support accounting entries made to adjust or write off assets and liabilities;
Retain sufficient evidence in transaction files to show that all transactions have been properly approved for payment;
Prepare purchase authorizations in advance of the expenditure to be approved;
Have evidence of receipt of goods and services prior to approving transactions of payment;
Provide travel vouchers and ensure that travelers provide documentation to indicate the trip was taken; and
Require that all financial transactions be properly approved and supported before being processed.
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This particular administrative instruction implements approximately 21 of the GAO's recommendations.
AI 421 directs the Chief of the Administrative Services and Clearinghouse Division to:
Prepare and maintain contract files to document the basis for Commission decisions in acquiring good and services;
Ensure that all statements of work contain a provision on organizational conflict of interest;
Provide training to appropriate employees on federal procurement rules, regulations, procedures, and issues;
Require that all aspects of the Commission's procurement be documented in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations; and
Report fiscal year procurement data for fiscal years 2003 through 2005 into the Federal Procurement Data Center and, going forward, to report such data annually into the Center.
These are the first in what will be a lengthy series of reforms that we will adopt in order to ensure that the Commission complies with all legal requirements and that its management is sound. Between now and February 2006, we plan to implement GAO's pending recommendations and to establish significantly stronger internal controls and project planning procedures.
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The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has an illustrious history and a deeply important mission. As we approach the vital task of reform, our challenge is to establish the controls that are necessary to ensure the success of our mission. It is important that we carry out this mission with a high degree of integrity in order to ensure public confidence and trust in the Commission as ''the conscience of the Nation'' on civil rights matters.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much. We appreciate your testimony.
[The Subcommittee proceeded to other business, to reconvene at the conclusion of that business.]
Mr. CHABOT. At this time we will go back into our hearing relative to the Civil Rights Commission, and Mr. Harbison, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF GEORGE HARBISON, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, AND ACTING CHIEF OF BUDGET AND FINANCE, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
Mr. HARBISON. Mr. Chairman, honorable Members of the Subcommittee, good morning. My name is George Harbison, and I appear here today in acceptance of your invitation to express my thoughts relative to the fiscal and management practices of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. I have approximately 30 years of service in the Federal sector in the areas of financial management. From 1989 to 2005, I served with the Commission on Civil Rights as Chief of the Budget and Finance Division. Since February of 2005, I am currently serving as the Director of Human Resources and Acting Director of Budget and Finance.
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During this time span, this 30-year time span, I also served
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, we are having a little trouble hearing him, if he could pull his
Mr. CHABOT. Could you pull the mike a little bit closer, Mr. Harbison? Thank you very much.
Mr. WATT. Thank you so much.
Mr. HARBISON. During the 30-year career that I've had so far, I've also held other positions to include auditor, senior auditor, audit manager, and acting chief of an area audit office.
Upon my arrival here at the Commission, the Budget and Finance Division consisted roughly of four professional staff. This staff was responsible for managing the day-to-day fiscal activities of the Commission, and more specifically the division prepared, presented, justified, and executed the annual budgets of the Commission. We ensured preparation of required financial reports. We prepared ad hoc reports necessary for internal financial management. We implemented procedures as required by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Treasury, General Services Administration, and other agencies relative to financial management. We received certified payment and monitored invoice payments. We received certified and monitored travel for the Commission on Civil Rights. We ensured the establishment of a system of accounts compliant with Federal guidelines to account for all Commission expenditures.
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I also served as security officer to safeguard individual privacy and agency financial information. At the same time I was serving as Commission liaison to Federal and private sector industries in matters related to finance and budget.
During the same period of time, from the period 1989 to 2005, staffing within the division dwindled from four to three in 1989, from three to two in 2001, and from two to one in 2005, and currently consists of one individual, who is me, in fact, for 2005.
With regards to the fiscal practices, the Commission on Civil Rights uses a centralized budgeting concept, meaning that essentially while budgeting, reporting, and monitoring of expenditures are done internally at the individual cost center level, control of the budget has rested with the Office of Staff Director, where all expenditures are approved, contractual arrangements negotiated, contractual contracting officer responsibilities are handled, contractor invoices are received, and contractor payments certified.
When the Commission changed the accounting service providers in fiscal year 2004, much of the accounting and reporting and monitoring functions previously done by the Budget and Finance Division were accomplished by a new contractor. This contractor also reported directly to the Office of the Staff Director. In essence, the Budget and Finance Division essentially became an instrument for processing travel documents, agenda payments, and related documents, and to answer questions related to these various issues.
Issues related to contractor performance and most liaison functions were handled by the Office of the Staff Director. As a result, the historical knowledge base relative to contractor performance rested with the Office of the Staff Director as well. The downside to a centralized budget is that it limits accountability of office heads to be responsible for the operation of their programs.
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May I continue?
Mr. CHABOT. Yes. Could you wrap up, though? Because your 5 minutes are up.
Mr. HARBISON. In summary, the Commission on Civil Rights is a viable organization, and while no one has specifically questioned my professional qualifications, I would say that 30 years' background in fiscal management as well as auditing multi-billion-dollar contracts and multi-system weapons system well establishes my qualifications and credentials.
I think that, in summary, the Commission can best move forward through a systematic process of planning, obtaining human capital, inclusion of all stakeholders in its decisionmaking processes, and being provided with sufficient fiscal resources, i.e., money, to get the job done.
That concludes my testimony, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Harbison was not available at the time of the hearing but is printed in the Appendix.]
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you, Mr. Harbison.
Members of the panel now have 5 minutes each to ask questions, and I recognize myself for 5 minutes for that purpose.
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Mr. Marcus, if I could start with you, as you know, I had an opportunity to stop down and visit your headquarters this past week, and you were kind enough to take me around the office and introduce me to some folks and see the space that is occupied. And as you know, a fair amount of the appropriations that your office receives is for rent, and one of the things that we had discussed was the three floors that you're on. And there are a fair number of, a pretty significant number of empty offices in there because of staff turnover and reductions of staff and for various reasons. And the actual layout of the office itself is probably not terribly efficient. And I would be interested to know what plans you have for maybe formulating for being more efficient in that area. And would you agree there's a considerable amount of waste in so much vacancy within the area?
Mr. MARCUS. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I would agree, and let me say we were delighted to welcome you, and it was very good to see the Chairman of the Subcommittee actually coming over and being interested enough to look in detail at the facility and what's going on at the Commission. So I was delighted by your interest.
One of the first things that occurred to me as I took the position, looking around the agency, is that when I looked at the offices of the Congressional Affairs Unit and saw that we had offices but no staff, when I looked at the offices of the Public Affairs Unit, we have offices but no staff; similarly for many other parts of the organization. Our staffing has dwindled to the point that some of our divisions or subdivisions are entirely empty of staff, and yet we are paying rent both at headquarters and in some of our regions for space that is not being used or not being used as efficiently as we could. I think we need to change that.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, one of the ironies that we have in terms of fiscal management is that when we make a move, we have immediate costs during the current fiscal year; the savings, of course, will be appreciated in future years. For fiscal year 2005, I don't believe that we can afford to make any moves right now because the costs would exceed our ability to pay. But I do think that at least with headquarters, we will need in the next fiscal year to seriously look at either consolidation of offices within our current space or, alternatively, with occupying a different space which is more appropriate to our staff size.
Mr. CHABOT. You also have, for lack of a better term, satellite offices around the country, and you have fiveactually, six, counting one that's within the same plan here in Washington.
Mr. MARCUS. Yes, Mr. Chairman, that's exactly right.
Mr. CHABOT. And do you have any thoughts relative to that, as to whether that's necessary or is an area that should be looked into as to the necessity for that many branches and whether or not it might be easier to occupy the folks in one location?
Mr. MARCUS. The number of offices that we have had has expanded and contracted over the years. There have been times where we have had as few as three regional offices and times where we have had many more offices than we currently have.
The main work of our regional offices is to work closely with the State advisory committees in each of the States to enable them to be the eyes and ears of the Commission. They prepare reports and analyses that are close to the ground, as it were, in States around the country.
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That work is mandated by our statute, and it does have to be done. There is no legal reason why we need to have field offices, and certainly no reason why we need to have the number of offices that we have now.
Mr. CHABOT. And you're, for example, paying rent at those various locations and
Mr. MARCUS. We are paying rent at those locations, and so as we make difficult decisions regarding how we can live within our financial means, even in the very short term, of course, we will have to ask questions about whether we can continue to afford the number of offices that we have now.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Redenbaugh, let me shift over to you, if I can. Again, I want to say that, you know, we were disappointed to hear about your resignation, and we're very grateful to the 15 years that you put in at the Commission. We really appreciate it, and we've heard many good things about you in particular.
I know you've tried to propose a number of reforms and met with some opposition. Could you describe for us why you think there is opposition to some of the common-sense financial and managerial reforms that you proposed? And what type of reforms did you propose that were rejected?
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REDENBAUGH. Well, the more recent round of reforms were proposed by Commissioner Kirsanow and myself, and they really went to theI think five areas, perhaps four: the need for a full audit, the need for an Inspector General, a change in the way we do our program policies is another area. But I think that what I came to realizeand I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit it took me 15 years to figure this outthat the problem of the Commission is not a problem of partisanship or personalities. It's a problem of accountability, and no organization will ever reform itself voluntarily. It is just far too painful to do that. You know, organizations that lose customers or lose clients are compelled to change. The structure of incentives works that way. But an agency that has no customers and is so independent exempts itself from the necessity of reform. And I think it doesn't matter who the people are or their ideology. It's the nature of human beings to resist change.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you. My time has expired.
The gentleman from New York, Mr. Nadler, is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you. I'd like to continue this line of questions to Commissioner Redenbaugh for a couple of minutes.
Yes, people resist change. That's human nature, except for certain individuals. Most people resist change. But when you get a Commission even without customers and so forth and wholesale change in who the Commissioners are, for the new Commissioners that's not change. They come in. They want to clean house, et cetera. So why do you think that that can't happen?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REDENBAUGH. You mean why do I think it hasn't been happening?
Mr. NADLER. Well, recently there's been a rather wholesale change in the Commission membership, a change in orientation, a change inwhy do you think that that new Commission membership is unamenable to the kind of change you think is necessary?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Well, you know, actually I don't know that the newest Commissioners are not amenable to that, and I suspect perhaps that they are. It's some of my longer-standing colleagues that have been reluctant, but I suspect they will now be more enthusiastic about that.
Mr. NADLER. So why do you think it is impossible to reform the Commission, as you stated, the new Commissionthe current one is impossible?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Because anything we do to adopt motions tomorrow, for example, can be ignored next month or, as I said, unadopted next year. That's a change but not a difference.
Mr. NADLER. But what I don't understand isyes, that is possible, obviously. Anybody can do something today and ignore it next month.
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Right.
Mr. NADLER. But you said, I think, in your testimony that you think it is necessary to have a Civil Rights Commission, you'd like to start over again.
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Mr. REDENBAUGH. Yes.
Mr. NADLER. Okay. I don't understand howlet's assume you abolish this Commission and set up a new one. How do we set it up differently so it wouldn't have the same problems as opposed to simply making a change in who the Commissioners are to change it in any event? I don't understand the difference there. In other words, what would change? Why would one method work and not what has just been
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Well, I think you'd want to do three things differently: have a clear purpose that was really understood, specify the processes by which people would work and the accountability, and that then would attract people who shared that purpose and would work through those processes.
Mr. NADLER. You're saying that the statutory purpose is not sufficient or is not clear enough?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. I think it's not clear enough, and I think the line of accountability and responsibility is very unclear.
Mr. NADLER. All right. But lines of responsibility and accountability can be changed without a statutory change. That can be changed within an existing Commission by the Commissioners if they want to. What you're really saying is that what is fundamentally wrong with the current Commission is that the statutory purpose is not sufficient.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REDENBAUGH. I think the statutory purpose is not sufficient and the line of authority to Congress is not sufficient.
Mr. NADLER. Okay. Thank you very much.
Mr. Harbison, there's been a lot of criticism of the Commission for lack of financial controls, accountability, and so forth. You've heard all that. You stated that as the person in charge of the department in charge of finances, your staff has gone from three to zero, that is, from four to one, you being the one.
Is thatdo you think that it would be fair to say that the problems with financing are because there's essentially no financing staff? Or was financing staff reduced because the financing function was parceled out to somebody else? I mean, which is first? What do you think is the problem?
Mr. HARBISON. I think the problem, or at least a semblance of the problem, you've hit on both. You can't run a division without fiscal resources, without the people resources. You cannot do that. It's just too much. Even with three staff onthree people on staff, we were working 14-, 15-hour days, and on Saturdays and Sundays.
Mr. NADLER. Let me ask you a different question because my time is going to run out. When you had that full staff of four people prior to whenever you said it changed, would it be fair to say that there were nothat there were not greatly expressed concerns about financial accountability and practices? Did these problems or the perception of these problems arise after the staff was decimated?
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Mr. HARBISON. I would say that is correct. However, in the same breath, I would say that we have always been concerned with fiscal management.
Mr. NADLER. Physical or fiscal?
Mr. HARBISON. Fiscal management. We are very much aware of the interest that Congress and the various Subcommittees have taken in the Commission on Civil Rights. So many of the things
Mr. NADLER. No, no, but let me just, if I may for one further moment. I hope and I presume that the department of fiscal affairs, or whatever the title is, would be very concerned with fiscal affairs. My question is: Do you think thatand do you thinkdo you think that it is true that and do you think it is perceived from the outside that prior to the great reduction in staff that you had the fiscal affairs relatively well in hand and thatand, in effect, what I'm asking, I suppose, is: Did the problems or the perceived problems arise because there was no longer an adequate staff to handle it? Or was there some other problem?
Mr. HARBISON. Yes.
Mr. NADLER. Yes to the first?
Mr. HARBISON. Yes.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NADLER. Okay. Thank you very much.
Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman's time has expired.
Okay. The gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Franks, is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. FRANKS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, gentlemen, for coming before the Committee.
Commissioner Redenbaugh, I know that, you know, this is kind of a unique day for you in that it perhaps it may be the last time you will speak before the Congress as the member of the Commission, and certainly many of us are very disappointed in your resignation and appreciate your efforts to try to reform the Commission. And I guess with 15 years of perspective, sometimes, you know, we like to just say to a person like that, if you were emperor for a day, what are the changes that you would make? And I know you've stated in your testimony that the Commission should be shut down and perhaps restarted. But if you had the opportunity to rewrite the statutory mission of this Commission and to rewrite or restructure it entirely and to be the one to suggest what the funding of the Commission should be, how would you as emperor for the day fix this thing?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. You know, that is a very large and important question, and I don't think I can do it justice in the time we have. I'd be happy to continue the discussion with you later. I think that's the right question: How would youif you didn't have this one, how would you create the right one? And I'd be happy to continue later with that.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FRANKS. All right. Well, perhaps I could try to narrow it just a little bit. If you could make just one changesometimes, you know, we get so caught up in the inertia of an organization, especially with new members and the changes in personnel, and, of course, pressures from the outside and the inside. If you could just make one critical change to the Commission that you think would give it the best chance of fulfilling its ostensible purpose, what would that one change be?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Rethink the purpose and have the purpose be endorsed and shared by the eight Commissioners.
Mr. FRANKS. And not to be insistent here, but if you were to writeor just to say what you think the purpose should be, how would Commissioner Redenbaugh write that purpose?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Well, rather than what I think it should be, it needs to be generated by the sitting Commissioners.
Mr. FRANKS. You think that the sitting Commissioners should just come together and find some sort of new collective approach or new collective mission that they could all buy into and that somehow that would create the continuity and the commonality among the members that would help it go forward in
Mr. REDENBAUGH. If you're limiting me to one thing, that's the one thing, because Staff Director Marcus is a good manager. He does know how to put those processes in place. But in the absence of a clear and shared purpose, it'll be difficult.
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Mr. FRANKS. That's always one of the great challenges in life, is to not know what you want and breaking your neck to get it. But thank you, Mr. Commissioner, and thank you all.
Mr. CHABOT. Does the gentleman yield his time back?
Mr. FRANKS. Yes, I do.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Thank you. The gentleman's time has expired.
It's my understanding that the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt, has to go to another Committee, so Mr. Conyers is okay with calling on Mr. Watt next. So we will do so. The gentleman is recognized.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Actually, I just had my staff person tell me that they're about to shortly take up the Congressional Black Caucus' budget on the floor, so I would just say that the questions that have been directed to Mr. Marcus and Mr. Harbison, while critically important from a management perspective, I would not even go into the micromanagement at that level about whether you've got too much office space or, you know, those kinds of things.
I think the more important questions really are the ones that have been pursued by my colleague who just got through asking questions, and that's the important debateand I'm not sure it's a debatebetween Commissioner Redenbaugh and Commissioner Yaki, both of whom, it seems to me, agree that there needs to be something, whether it's the existing Civil Rights Commission or some successor to the Civil Rights Commission with a different portfolio structure mechanism.
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And I think we probably benefit more from allowing and asking Commissioner Redenbaugh and Commissioner Yaki to give us their vision. I'm not sure that we have the luxury of saying to the Commission you can write your own charter, because the Commission was a creation of the Congress and the executive branch at some point. And Commissioners don't sit down and decide what they are going to do. There is a mission here, and I think what has happened with this Civil Rights Commission and predecessor Civil Rights Commissions, whatever their composition, is much of what has happened in this Congress.
We've got a wonderful purpose. We have some wonderful people. But the processes have justyou know, and we hadwe could sit here and blame the Commission for that, but we had a tremendous meltdown in our process just yesterday in this very Judiciary Committee, where we sat from 10 o'clock in the morning until 5:30 yesterday afternoon going through a charade. That doesn't mean that we should do away with the Judiciary Committee. We have meltdowns in the processes of the House that deprive us of being able to participate effectively in the democratic process. It doesn't mean we ought to do away with the House. The purpose, the democratic purpose of the House is one that people around the world fight, die, and, you know, bleed for. But the processes have fallen prey to partisan divides and philosophical divides that have made it impossible for us to talk to each other and honor the processes that should be in place to facilitate our talking to each other.
And so I'm hopeful as a result of this we won't get so tied up on what document we are subpoenaing and whether we got too much office space or, you know, whether this comma or that period fits in the right place. I hope we can spend some time focusing on this broader debate that Commissioner Yaki and Commissioner Redenbaugh have opened for us, and if we do a better job in this Committee of creating a bipartisan perspective on the mission and purpose of the Civil Rights Commission, I suspect that the Civil Rights Commission can do a better job of playing out what that mission is.
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And while I'm disappointed that the Commission has reached this fork in the road, I'm no more disappointed about that and the $8 million that we have at risk there and at stake there than I am disappointed about our own failings in our own institution here, where we have much, much, much more financially and philosophically and image-wise at risk.
So, with that, Mr. Chairman, I will yield back.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you. The gentleman yields back, and I think the gentleman makes some very good points, and I would agree that we should spend time looking at the overall picture.
I do believe that looking at how resources are being allocated, including office space, and the money that's being spent there when it could be perhaps better spent toward working toward improving civil rights in this country is important as well.
[Whereupon, at 10:31 a.m, the Subcommittee proceeded to other business, and reconvened at 10:48 a.m.]
Mr. CHABOT. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience on having markups, but we have to do it while we have sufficient Members here to actually record the vote.
The gentleman from Iowa, Mr. King, is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. KING. I thank the Chairman and the panel for their testimony this morning.
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Just to make a few remarks to Mr. Redenbaugh with regard to your testimony, I would tell you, Commissioner, that I was impressed with your testimony. It was concise, it was emphatic, it was clear, it showed conviction, and it was without notes. And all of those things add up to tell me that this is something, a decision and an opinion that you've come to after long deliberation and long service to your country. And I appreciate the brief recommendations that you have made with regard to how the Commission might be reformed into an effective body. And I wanted to make sure that that observation is on the record, but I'd like to direct my questions to Mr. Marcus, at least in the interim here.
That is, Mr. Marcus, I know you haven't been on task here very long, just a few months, and yet you walked into an environment that was a fiscal and policy mess, I think it's clear from this testimony and much documentation. And we apparently are not going to have access to the financial records up to that point that you stepped into this, so I would ask you: Have you preparedI'm not going to ask you what steps you've taken because you said you've taken some of the 20 recommendations, the GAO's recommendations. But have you prepared a written document that would be a road map or a plan to get the fiscal and the policy house in order?
Mr. MARCUS. Thank you, Congressman. We have developed a plan with respect to 20-odd recommendations which we are now implementing. With respect to the other reforms, we are taking as our road map for at least the beginning phases the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office beginning with the most recent reports, including the report which has not yet been formally issued. Our intent is to start with those findings that have already been made where we know what the problem is and where it's been documented and where we have recommendations which appear to be sound.
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That will take some year to accomplish. Those recommendations incorporate by reference additional recommendations by the OPM. So our starting point is with the recommendations that have already been made by the GAO in roughly reverse chronological order, including the OPM recommendations. I suspect that we will need substantial additional changes during what I would call the second year of reform, but the beginning phase is with the documents that are already publicly available from the GAO.
Mr. KING. Mr. Marcus, if this Congress were to have sufficient patience and lend itself to the plan that you would bring forward, what would be a specific date that you would ask for to present the changes before this Committee and demonstrate that the entire task of fiscal and policy and functional organization had beenwould you be willing to put this back before the scrutiny of this Committee? What would be an appropriate time?
Mr. MARCUS. For problems that have built up over a period of many years, things can't be turned around in a day. I would think for a complete turnaround of the institution, it's hard in less than 2 years to do that. But I would say
Mr. KING. That's sufficient. It gives me a sense. And I didn't want to nail you down to a specific date, but I get a general idea. The task is large. How many staff now work for the Commission?
Mr. MARCUS. The number fluctuates slightly, but it's approximately 67, including the 8 Commissioners and their 8 assistants.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KING. Have any been hired since you came on board?
Mr. MARCUS. Yes. I have hired one and, in addition, there is, I believe, one who was hired subsequent to myexcuse me, was hired prior to my arrival but who arrived subsequent.
Mr. KING. So what would be full staffing, then, to fill those offices, if that's the intent?
Mr. MARCUS. Oh.
Mr. KING. I mean, I had understood that about 70 maybe was about full staff, but apparently in this testimony today, it might be more?
Mr. MARCUS. Well, we have some 37 vacant offices. As for the number of positions that we have that are vacant, I'm not sure of the number, but it's a substantial number. We certainly would need to have a larger number of people than we have now. Whether that number is equal to the number of formal vacancies, I'm not sure.
Mr. KING. More money, more people. And who hired the staff that's there today?
Mr. MARCUS. Some of them have been around for over 30 years and were hired by the staff directors from the seventies or the sixties. Most, and in particular, most in headquarters, were hired during the nineties and in the first few years ofsince 2000, so most was my immediate predecessor and his predecessor.
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Mr. KING. Thank you. I'd ask unanimous consent for one more minute.
Mr. CHABOT. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. KING. I thank the Chairman. I'd just direct the question to Mr. Harbison. Mr. Harbison, you've been involved in financial management for 30 years, and you spoke to your professionalism in your testimony and 14 years there with the Commission. And I'd ask you, do you believe it was your fiduciary responsibility to have a general ledger and keep track of that? And ifyou know, yes or no on that one, and maybe some opinion, but also where is the general ledger?
Mr. HARBISON. The first question is yes, I do believe it. And the second question is that I'm advised that a general ledger does exist and has existed and has been provided to the auditors.
Mr. KING. But you as the financial officer do not have access to the general ledger and you've been there 14 years?
Mr. HARBISON. I am limiting thosethe comments previously to the last year. Prior to that, yes, I did have access to the general ledger.
Mr. KING. Thank you, Mr. Harbison.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much.
Just to be clear, did you say you haven't had it for the last year?
Mr. HARBISON. That is correct, sir.
Mr. CHABOT. Where has it been?
Mr. HARBISON. It has been with the previous staff director and the contractor who's doing our accounting systems.
Mr. CHABOT. And to your knowledge, it's still with him or them?
Mr. HARBISON. It's with the accounting service provider that's doingthat's contracted to do our accounting.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. But you haven't seen
Mr. HARBISON. They maintained
Mr. CHABOT. You haven't seen it or had access to it within the last year; is that correct?
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HARBISON. That is correct.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Thank you very much.
The gentleman from Michigan, the distinguished Ranking Member of the full Judiciary Committee, Mr. Conyers, is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Let me ask our four witnesses if they have any free advice they would want to give us. I think I'm probably the last person that will be asking you questions. Is therewell, maybe there's onlyI am the last.
Let me start with Mr. Yaki. You're the most free of any past activities with this Committee, so you're considered the innocent witness.
Mr. YAKI. Thank you. [Laughter.]
Mr. CONYERS. What are younow that you've got the flavor of here in Congress, nobody got their hides skinned off, and there was no emotional outbursts, and everybody was pretty rational, what free advice would you leave the Members of the Committee and the Chairman and Ranking Member Nadler and the rest of us to think about as we move forward?
Mr. YAKI. Thank you very much, Congressman Conyers, for asking that question, and in deference to Congressman King, I threw away my notes so he'd be more impressed with what I'd say.
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I think it's very important that we recognize that if there were sins of the past, that they not go toward shackling of the future of this Commission. I think it's important that the kind of oversight that this Commission or any agency needs or requires from the Congress is done in a way that ensures that our mission must go forward.
I would say this: One of the things that struck me as the idea that was advanced by Mr. Redenbaugh about the clear purpose, I would disagree. I believe we have a clear purpose. I think that purpose is the general investigatory and fact-finding function in enforcing and examining civil rights in America. I think that is sufficiently clear. I think what perhaps is not so clear is that as we move forward, we are looking at individual agendas. And I would submitand I am going to suggest this to the entire Commission tomorrowthat we should look at a way to try and re-energize the agenda and the scope of the Civil Rights Commission and have national open hearings where people can come and talk and discuss and tell us what is going on out there, what are the new things that are happening, what things may not have been picked up on, are being underreported, overreported, not reported at all, so that we may begin to look at that and from the ground up fashion a truly national civil rights agenda. I think that is an important component of what we want to do going forward.
But as for what this Committee does, I would hope that being someone who comes from Government and from a local legislature, I would hope that our staff director would work closely with the Chairman and the Ranking Member to apprise them of the reforms that are going on so they are comfortable moving forward to allow us to continue the important mission of protecting civil rights in this country.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CONYERS. Commissioner Redenbaugh, have you reconsidered your resignation based on the wonderfully warm reception you've received here in the Judiciary Committee?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. What I have considered is I'd rather come here than there. [Laughter.]
It's much more collegial here. I was touched, Congressman Conyers, by what you said and particular thank you, but no, I have not.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, I have the suspicion you're going to try to help out and when people come to you, even Commissioners, for counsel that you'll probably give it anyway, even though you're not on it. And I want to encourage you to continue to look at it and also feel free to consult with a number of us here on the Committee, because, you know, let's face it, there's a certain amount of politicalization of the process that is unavoidable.
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Right.
Mr. CONYERS. I wish it weren't. Our votes frequently come in the floor, they're quite partisan. I mean, the D's vote one way, the R's vote another way, and yet we say but this issue is not a matter of Republicans or Democrats, but that's the way the vote goes.
So I don't feelI mean, I would like that to be minimized, the partisanship, but the fact that it exists in a subject as prickly as civil rights is not shocking to me. The question is can we all get it together, and this Committee plays a huge role in helping you facilitate that. And that's what we want to do.
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We're hoping that you'll avoid a lot ofas much partisan rancor as possible because it does, as everyone here has said so well, take away from the projects, the goals of the Commission itself. And we want to make sure that that continues.
For example, we've got the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, which now seem to be weighing in, Mr. Marcus, in big time on the opinions. Now, maybe they were all the time, anyway. I know there are very few subjects that they decline to get into. But we've got to make sure that this thing comes off right. For us to be investigating whether privatizing Social Security is going to shortchange African Americans, for example, Chairman Chabot, is a subject that is being gone into by the Ways and Means Committee and numerous experts.
Mr. CHABOT. The gentleman's time has expired, but if I could just comment. I don't know that anybody's talking about privatizing Social Security. There are some that are talking about personal savings accounts.
Mr. CONYERS. Personal savings accounts, okay. Same thing. [Laughter.]
Mr. CHABOT. I thought you might think that, but I think there's a difference.
Mr. CONYERS. Okay. But even so, the President is on a 60-day tour. Members of Congress have been urged to hold town hall meetings. But one of theI haven't heard anybody suggest we ought to check with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to see what they think about this.
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So, anyway, let's try to keep it down, ladies and gentlemen. Let's try to keep this thing on a realistic basis so that the cries of partisanship won't continue to arise again. And I want to thank all of you for coming here. I'm hoping that the Chairman of the Committee will see it in his interest to get the rest of the Commissioners up here and continue this kind of dialogue.
Mr. CHABOT. We're certainly willing to do everything that we can to make sure that all the information that this Committee needs to get adequate oversight of the Civil Rights Commission is done, and we would consider future hearings, and we would work with the minority staff to accomplish that, if it's deemed necessary and appropriate.
We thank the gentleman for his comments, and I would now recognize the gentlemanis the gentleman from Indianadid he leave? Okay.
At this time if there arewe were going to go into a second panel. This has gone offlet me askI recognize myself for a couple of follow-up questions. If any other Members want to do that in the short time that we have.
Let me ask, Mr. Marcus, just following up on some of the comments that Mr. Harbison had made in his testimony, relative to the ledger and the books and Booth and that sort of thing. Would you explain the duties of the Commission, the contracts to Booth Management, and could you explainyou know, you have the Director of Budget and Finance, and then you have Booth that apparently has a lot of the books. Would you explain whether the new director, who would be a GS15 level Federal employee, would be responsible for the duties currently being performed by Booth Management?
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Mr. MARCUS. Yes, Mr. Chairman. The accounting and financial functions as well as related administrative and management functions are within the Office of Management and under the responsibility of the Director of Management, Tina Louise Martin. The position of Director of Budget and Finance was previously held by Mr. Harbison, who is now Director of Human Resources and Personnel, which creates a vacancy which we will fill at the GS15 level.
That person will be responsible for oversight of all budget and financial matters, including additionally certain strategic planning responsibilities. That person will be responsible with dealing with oversight of all accounting practices. Currently we have a full service accounting provider named Booth. The new person would either interact with Booth or its successor, which might be a contractor or a combination of personnel.
I suspect that whatever we do with the new Budget and Finance Director, we would need a substantial amount of the work to be outsourced either to Booth or to another entity.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Let me shift gears. Have you conducted a human resources evaluation of the Committee staff to get an accurate understanding of the Commission's staffing strength and needs? And what do you intend to do relative to making sure that the staff is as efficient as possible and that civil rights are being pursued?
Mr. MARCUS. I have, of course, done an informal evaluation of the needs of the staff so as to determine what needs to be done on a right-away basis in light of the various emergencies that we have currently. As for a more formal or larger-scale plan, I know there is discussion among some of the Commissioners of various sorts of audit or analyses that might be done, and I think that that is possibly within the rubric of reforms that they are being considered. Whether it would be simply an analysis or a form of personnel audit is, I think, something that they are in the process of considering.
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Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Thank you.
I have a number of other questions. We've got three votes on the floor, and I don't want to have the witnesses have to come back here. So let me just ask one final question, and then if any other Members have any questions they'd like to ask in the time we have left, we'd be willing to do that.
Mr. Redenbaugh, let me go back to you. You had mentioned in your opening statement a number of things, but one thing you said struck me. You said that we don't have a clear purpose, we have agendas. And could you explain, expound upon that a bit, what you meant by that?
Mr. REDENBAUGH. Yes. What I mean by that is we don't havethere's not an overarching theme or mission. To say that we're for civil rights doesn'tthat merely announces we're not in the Department of Transportation. It doesn'tit isn't any organizing principle around which we can gather. So in the absence of thatand we have certain methods, like our fact-finding that Commissioner Yaki spoke about is one of our methods, but there isn't a mission that the Commissioners have even considered or adopted or embraced. Then in the absence of that, there are agendas put forward by Commissioners for particular projects, myself included.
Mr. CHABOT. All right. Thank you very much. My time hasn't expired, but I'm going to call it expired.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. King, did you have any final thoughts or comments that you wanted to make?
Mr. KING. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do, and I'll try to keep them brief.
As I sit here and listen to this testimony, I know there's a mountain of evidence underneath this testimony, and, Mr. Yaki, I appreciate you throwing away your notes and giving us your testimony. But I'm happy enough to hear it off the page, too, and it comes from the heart when it's truthful, and I know that you're limited in your background being on the Commission, but you gave us your best presentation today, and I appreciate that as well.
I will just say that a lot of us here are out of patience or down to the very last few drops of it, and there have been some months to take some steps. And even though reaction to a GAO recommendation, there have been three or four other times that the GAO has made those recommendations when there hasn't been a response, and maybe we'll see some response this time. But I would say that it also is incumbent upon the Commission to be proactive, to step ahead of the GAO, and to lay out some solid terms of reform, both in agenda and purpose and also in financial management. And to have not had access to that general ledger for over a year in the position that you were in, Mr. Harbison, I can't express what that means to me. If I had a financial officer that said, well, I'm sorry, your finances are in a mess but I couldn't get my hands on the records, I just don't think that can be excused.
Furthermore, I'd ask the Commission to lay out an agenda of issues they may want to take up, and some of those that comes to mind are Adarand, for example. I've spent my life in the contracting business. I know what that case says. I followed it from the beginning, and yet it has been circumvented by a thing called goals rather than quotas. Would that be an appropriate subject matter for a Commission to take up.
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There are a number of others, and rather than go down through that list, Mr. Chairman, I would just say that, you know, I've had a bit of a voice here and I would add one more thing, and that is that most of the staff has been hired by the predecessor, and that's where their loyalty would be, that's where their philosophy would be, and that's where the problem to some degree has been. And I would beI would suspect that it would be very difficult to do an overhaul of your Commission without making changes in staff, to bring in fresh faces, fresh people, and fresh philosophy so that you could actually truly get a new start. And I think many of the Commissioners have voiced a commitment to make a new start, and those are my recommendations on how to do it.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you very much, Mr. King. We appreciate your comments.
Mr. Harbison, would youyou had a prepared statement. Would you be able to submit that for the record? I know most of your comments were
Mr. HARBISON. I have pretty much marked the one I have up, Mr. Chairman. I'd be happy to perhaps submit it later.
Mr. CHABOT. That would be very good. If you could submit that, we'd appreciate it.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to thank all the witnesses for being here this afternoonor, excuse me, this morning, and we have some votes on the floor that we have to head over to right now. And, Mr. Redenbaugh, I'm particularlyagain, we're sorry to see you go. We thank you very much for the 15 years that you spent. And I have to say just personally there have been a number of my fellow Members of Congress and others that have talked about doing away with the Civil Rights Commission. I do not personally share that view. What I would much rather do is reform the Civil Rights Commission and have it once again stand for those things that in some years it stood through, as you mentioned in your testimony, Mr. Yaki, very significant historical things that it played a role in. And it's had problems over the years, some of them mismanagement, some of it financial issues, and there's just so many things that need to be resolved, and we certainly want the Commission's cooperation in obtaining these things.
And as I mentioned, I see some of the folks, the new folks, as really being part of the solution, not part of the problem, trying to reform this agency so that it can once again be the great Civil Rights Commission that it was intended to be. So that's what my hope is. I don't know whether that's going to be able to be accomplished or not, but that's certainly my goal.
And thank you for being here this morning. If there's no further business to come before the Committee, we're adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 11:13 a.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMaterial Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF GEORGE HARBISON, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, AND ACTING CHIEF OF BUDGET AND FINANCE, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY CHAIRMAN STEVE CHABOT TO MICHAEL YAKI, COMMISSIONER, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY CHAIRMAN STEVE CHABOT TO KENNETH L. MARCUS, STAFF DIRECTOR, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
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RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY CHAIRMAN STEVE CHABOT TO GEORGE HARBISON, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, AND ACTING CHIEF OF BUDGET AND FINANCE, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
LETTER OF RESIGNATION FROM RUSSELL G. REDENBAUGH, COMMISSIONER, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS, TO MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST
LETTER TO CHAIRMAN STEVE CHABOT FROM ABIGAIL THERNSTROM, VICE CHAIRMAN, AND JENNIFER C. BRACERAS, COMMISSIONER, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
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