Campus Notebook: A Settlement Pattern

Posted January 11, 2010 at 5:36pm

Library of Congress officials want to enter settlement talks with Theresa Papademetriou, a senior foreign law specialist whose lawsuit claims that a former law librarian routinely sexually harassed female employees.

[IMGCAP(1)]Last month, attorneys for Papademetriou and the Library jointly filed a motion to stay court proceedings for 90 days “for the parties to engage in settlement negotiations.—

“The parties have conferred and are interested in exploring the possibility of settlement of the matter prior to any further judicial proceedings,— the motion states. The judge has not yet issued an order.

Former Law Librarian Rubens Medina spent 14 years overseeing the nation’s largest law collection. He retired in 2008, and the agency replaced him in August with Roberta Shaffer.

According to Papademetriou’s lawsuit, Medina sexually harassed employees for years, intimidating his female co-workers by touching them inappropriately and interjecting conversations with sexual innuendos.

In 2002, Medina was the subject of another sexual discrimination case: An applicant for the director of legal research claimed that in her interview Medina “inquired about her ability to work with people from different cultures who might not have a tradition of equal opportunity for women.—

The Library eventually settled, paying $230,000.

Bipartisan Accounting. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Mike Conaway (R-Texas) want the next head of the Government Accountability Office to be a certified public accountant.

The two introduced a bill last month requiring that the current vacant comptroller general position only be filled with someone who is a licensed CPA.

As Congress’ watchdog, the GAO conducts audits on federal agencies, along with other oversight functions. Its 3,000 analysts produce thousands of reports every year. However, in fiscal 2009, only 6 percent of the agency’s work was financial auditing, according to a GAO spokesman.

A Congressional panel is currently finalizing a list of recommended

candidates to fill the position left vacant when former Comptroller General David Walker left for the private sector in 2008. Once the panel sends the list to the White House, President Barack Obama can nominate a candidate from the list or one of his own choosing.

Open Rules. Starting today, federal regulations will be available in XML format, allowing the public to more easily search and access the rules of federal agencies.

The Government Printing Office converted the 226-volume Code of Federal Regulations with the National Archives Office of the Federal Registrar. Now, instead of simply downloading a PDF, users can mine the data for use in applications.

“It’s really an attempt to enhance the openness and transparency of federal documents,— said Mike Wash, the chief information officer of the GPO. “Advanced users,— he said, are able to pull information from XML files and disseminate it to the public.

For example, govpulse.us uses the XML format of the Federal Register to create an application that organizes documents and makes them easier to find.

Greener and Greener. The Capitol will get almost $17 million in facility infrastructure upgrades over the next two years, thanks to a partnership with a private company.

Ameresco Select Inc. will pay the up-front costs, installing new lighting, electrical and air-handling systems, and other things. The company will be repaid with the savings realized from the energy-efficient improvements.

“We have been aggressively working to reduce the Capitol complex’s environmental footprint and its overall energy consumption,— acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers said in a press release. “However, there is still more we can and need to do, and this public-private partnership will help us achieve additional energy reductions.—

In fiscal 2008, Ayers said, Congress reduced its energy consumption on the Hill by 10.7 percent. The improvements to the Capitol are expected to save an additional 4,637 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, along with energy savings in the heating and cooling of the Capitol.

In August, the AOC entered a similar Energy Savings Performance Contract with NORESCO to perform about $34 million of energy-efficient upgrades to House office buildings.

Gitmo Lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Library of Congress on behalf of Morris Davis, a former assistant director at the Congressional Research Service. Davis was fired in December after he published opinion pieces in two national newspapers offering his opinion on the decision to try some Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detainees in military commissions and others in federal courts.

Davis, who served as chief prosecutor for military commissions from 2005 to 2007, was hired in 2008 to work in the CRS’ Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division. The CRS fired him because he was in violation of the Library’s policy that employees not speak publicly on behalf of the Library, though he was cited in both publications in his capacity as former prosecutor.

“Michael B. Mukasey had his premise wrong when he contended that the decision to try Guantanamo detainees in federal courts comes down to a choice between protecting the American people and showcasing American justice,— Davis wrote in the Washington Post on Nov. 11.

A week after the two pieces’ publication, Davis was notified that he would be let go. His employment was extended through Jan. 20.

The ACLU’s complaint names Librarian of Congress James Billington and Davis’ direct boss, CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan, as defendants.

Tricia Miller contributed to this report.

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