Federal News Radio turned to Attorney Debra D'Agostino for insight
into the future of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)—the
body that protects federal employees from unjust or unlawful actions by
agency managers. The three-member board currently only has two members
and will shrink further to one member come March 2017.
While dealings with the MSPB are likely to remain unchanged until that
time, Attorney D'Agostino did express some concern about the long-term
prospects of the judicial board. "The larger concern that people
who do what I do have is whether or not the board is going to be around
much into the future," she told Federal News Radio.
With President-Elect Donald Trump's promises to make it easier to fire
federal employees and lawmakers' continued focus on the board, it
is unclear what form the board will take in 2017 and beyond. This year,
lawmakers clashed with board when it reversed the Veterans Affairs’s
decision to remove executives.. There are several pieces of legislation
being considered that would limit federal employees’ access to the
board—thus making them more exposed to firing without MSPB intervention.
"It’s clearly on the agenda and it has been for the past while,
and I don’t see it going away,” D’Agostino added. “The
only thing that’s really been stopping it is that Obama said that
he’d veto. Once that’s gone, there’s going to be a lot
of room to move ahead with big, big changes. Maybe not doing away with
the board entirely, but certainly that’s a possibility."
The One-Member Board
While the fate of the MSPB is decided, Attorney D'Agostino predicts
that there will be little change with her dealings with the board while
it is short one or even two members. "It’s really going to
be the petitions for review, the appeals that get filed of the [administrative
judges’] decisions that are going to be log-jammed,” she told
Federal News Radio. “That’s not a huge percentage of the cases.
By and large the cases will get processed at the regional office level
just as they’re getting processed now.”
The MSPB is facing a backlog of claims from current or former federal employees
who believe that they were treated unfairly as a holdover from the furlough
appeals created by the government shutdown. Even if new board members
were selected and confirmed by Congress, it would take them some time
to familiarize themselves with these cases and be informed enough to render
decisions on them.
You can read and hear more of Attorney D'Agostino's insight at
"MSPB will have 1 voting member in March. What happens next?"
on the Federal News Radio