Gainer Will Reopen Gallery Job Search After Squabble With Correspondents

Posted June 18, 2010 at 3:57pm

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer agreed to reopen the search process for a new Senate Gallery deputy director Friday, after the Radio and Television Correspondents Association railed against his earlier decision to unilaterally pick a candidate for the spot.

Members of the association’s executive committee met with Gainer on Friday afternoon and presented a letter asking him to withdraw the offer of employment and “restore the traditional role” of committee involvement in the process.

Soon after, Gainer agreed to restart the selection process. In an interview Friday, he said his office would repost the job and involve the RTCA in the decision-making process.

“Clearly this was some kind of gigantic miscommunication, and it was my responsibility to make sure there was communication,” he said, later adding: “I’m in the mess-up, fess-up, cleanup phase.”

Gainer legally has hiring and firing authority over news gallery positions, thanks to the Congressional Accountability Act. But for years, the Senate SAA office has respected an agreement that gives the gallery members a significant role in filling the positions. That understanding has been backed in the past by oversight committees and Senate leadership.

The recent search process began normally, with the creation of an advisory board to oversee the process. That panel included a representative from the association’s executive committee, Senate Radio-Television Gallery Director Mike Mastrian and a Senate Human Resources staff member.

The advisory board held interviews and recommended two candidates for the position, according to the association. Gainer then agreed to confer with the board before making a decision but instead offered the job to a third candidate.

In a draft of the letter given to Gainer, the RTCA writes that Gainer then “shut down” communication and called the resulting situation “unacceptable.”

“We are aware of and respect your role in the hiring and supervision of SAA employees,” the letter reads, “but your office’s blatant disregard for the proper role of the Executive Committee of Correspondents as provided in the Senate Rules ignores years of precedent and undermined the purpose for which the Senate created the Executive Committee so many years ago.”

But by Friday afternoon, the issue appeared resolved. Gainer said that the advisory board would be re-established and that he would confer with the RTCA on any hiring decision.

“Whether they legally have that right or traditionally have that right is not the point,” Gainer said. “They ought to have that information. They have to work closely with this individual.”