The PERB has been close to the center of the recent mayor-vs.-council feud. On WTOP radio Friday, Attorney General Peter J. Nickles suggested the recent donnybrook over baseball tickets was prompted in no small part by the council’s refusal to confirm four previous nominees, and subsequently reduce the board quorum to one member in order to allow business to proceed.
The four rejected nominees, councilmembers said, had little experience in the field of labor-management relations and were too personally close to the mayor. Whatever you say about the new nominees, they definitely have labor and employment experience—all four are or have been employment lawyers. They are:
- John P. Isa, of Dupont Circle. He’s a senior associate at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker, where he “represents employers in all aspects of employment law.” According to his resume, Barnes has generally done work for large employers at his current firm, but he did work as a law clerk for a union while in law school. Isa hasn’t contributed to Fenty’s campaigns, according to a search of campaign finance records, but he has made several donations to At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania.
- Mary Oates Walker, of Crestwood. Since 1996, Walker has had a business consulting and investment firm. Before that, however, she was an employment attorney for nearly 10 years, including a stint as senior counsel for Hershey Co., managing all labor and employment matters for the candy giant. She was previously nominated to PERB in 2007, but then-government operations committee chair Carol Schwartz never moved her nomination. She was subsequently nominated and confirmed to the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment. Walker lives two blocks away from Fenty and has donated to his council runs.
- Johnine P. Barnes, of Barnaby Woods. Barnes is a partner at Baker Hostetler specializing in employment law. Her online profile at her law firm says she is “experienced in various phases of employment law, including litigating and defending administrative claims of harassment; retaliation and discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, and disability; wrongful discharge and breach of contract issues; and client compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and other federal and state statutes governing employment. She has assisted clients in matters involving labor law, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as analogous state statutes, collective bargaining, grievance arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings.” She also is a fundraiser for Fenty, having appeared on the host committee list for the joint Fenty-Cory Booker event earlier this year.
- Jennifer E. Chung, of Adams Morgan. Chung is a staff attorney in the employment practice at Seyfarth Shaw. According to her firm profile, “She advises employers in the areas of equal employment opportunity compliance, wrongful discharge, employment discrimination, sexual and racial harassment, wage and hour compliance, family and medical leave, privacy issues, personnel policies and handbooks, employment contracts, alternative dispute resolution, non-competition agreements, labor relations, and trade secret protection.” She, with her husband, gave $100 to Fenty’s mayoral run.
Question is, will the council consider employment law experience to be equivalent to “expert knowledge of the field of labor relations,” which is what the PERB statute demands in terms of qualifications. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, now chair of the government-ops committee, draws a distinction between the two, though she has yet to review the new nominees. “We’ll have a look at it,” she says. “I have nothing but hope that they’ll all be qualified—supremely qualified. I’d like nothing more than to move these.”