First CAO Diversity Review Is Under Way

Posted June 22, 2010 at 6:31pm

Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard hired the Ivy Planning Group to conduct a diversity review of his office two months ago, but it’s unclear what the review will cover and when it will be completed.

Beard first began searching for a diversity consultant in October, citing a desire to make the office more “sustainable, efficient and responsive.” The consultant was to be the first step in a two-year organizational “refocus.”

Beard told the House Administration Committee in April that his office chose the Ivy Planning Group as the company that would survey the CAO’s more than 650 employees. But since then, information on the scope, progress and cost of the office’s first-ever diversity review has been slim.

In an e-mail Tuesday, CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said the “elements and parameters of the review are being developed.”

“The review is ongoing,” he said. “That’s all I have at this time.”

Since Beard took over as CAO in 2007, he has reorganized the office, gaining both praise and criticism. His efforts have helped decrease the House’s energy use through the new Green the Capitol office, for example, but they also have resulted in complaints about the quality of some administrative functions. Shifting around employees has also led to some discontent — and a discrimination lawsuit.

Former CAO budget director LaTaunya Howard filed a discrimination suit against the office in September, claiming that she was fired during the CAO’s reorganization because she is an African-American woman. She refers to an internal investigation that discovered that pay raises in June 2007 were mostly given to white employees.

When Beard informed his staff of the diversity survey a little more than a month later, he alluded to the internal difficulties during the office’s changes.

“Our organizational improvements have resulted in many changes, and change is never easy,” he wrote in an e-mail to employees. “To change the direction of any organization requires careful examination of how that change impacts not only the productivity and efficacy of an organization, but also how it affects employee morale and the general spirit of fairness and equity we all hold in high regard.”

CAO officials chose the Ivy Planning Group to carry out the diversity survey after reviewing a total of 35 proposals. The Maryland-based company is a minority-owned firm that has worked with large companies and government agencies.

In 2008, the Government Accountability Office hired the Ivy Group to review its performance rating system after officials discovered that black employees consistently received lower ratings than their white counterparts. The company’s report laid the blame of the GAO culture, suggesting that black employees needed to be given more opportunities.

In the meantime, the House as a whole is undergoing its own diversity initiative, with the House Administration Committee spearheading a program that will include staff training and required diversity reports from legislative branch agencies like the CAO.