Capitol Police Diversity Officer Quits

Posted October 8, 2010 at 5:25pm

When the first Capitol Police diversity officer was hired in February, he said his goal was to ‘eliminate any barriers to workplace diversity’ in the department’s troubled administrative wing.

Six months later, Marcus Williams resigned out of frustration, several sources said.

Unlike his appointment, which Police Chief Phillip Morse heralded at the time as a ‘proactive step’ and ‘vitally important’ to the department’s hiring plans, Williams left quietly; the public revelation came not in a statement, but in the pages of a lawsuit.

Scharon Ball, senior employment counsel at the Capitol Police, is suing Morse, along with House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood, the chairman of the Capitol Police Board. She alleges that the department failed to thoroughly investigate race-based and gender-based discrimination claims that she levied against her supervisor.

Her lawsuit says Morse instead retaliated against her by refusing to promote her to diversity officer. The position went to Williams, a Capitol Police outsider.

Williams left a similar job at the Justice Management Division of the Department of Justice, but he soon realized he couldn’t shore up hiring and promotion practices within the Capitol Police, according to Ball’s lawsuit and separate sources.

‘Williams quit due to his belief that the department was not committed to abiding by diversity or [equal employment opportunity] principles and due to attempts … within the department to dampen any effort to implement a meaningful diversity program,’ says Ball’s September lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider challenged this claim.

‘During his tenure, he was able to provide valuable guidance and insight,’ she said. ‘He also drafted policy and procedures for his newly established position and a diversity plan for the agency.’

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said the department’s general counsel is currently vetting the document.

When reached at his new job as equal employment opportunity officer at the U.S. Marshals Service, Williams declined to comment on his exit.

But one current and one former administrative employee of the Capitol Police who have firsthand knowledge of the matter confirmed his dissatisfaction.

‘He was frustrated with the environment,’ the former administrator said. ‘It is not an environment that is open to change, nor was it open to the role of his office as a diversity office. When I say environment, I am referring to support from the top of the agency.’

The current employee said Williams didn’t think the agency was serious about improving the situation. ‘He said, ‘We have a problem here, and I don’t think they want it fixed,” the current employee said. ‘He just realized that it wasn’t a good fit and they weren’t committed to it and he should move on.’

‘I hope that’s not true,’ Gainer said of the current and former employees’ claims.

Gainer, who preceded Morse as chief and now sits on the Capitol Police Board, said he has not spoken to Williams since his departure but that ‘he left for what I think would be a better opportunity with more responsibility,’ echoing the department’s official stance.

‘The position was enhanced, the salary level was higher and I think the opportunities were greater,’ Gainer said. ‘Good people get drafted. You don’t sign to a long-term contract like sports around here. Our desire would have been for him to stay.’

The department created the diversity office after Capitol Police Inspector General Carl Hoecker told Members in a 2008 oversight hearing that the agency lacked a formal diversity program or an Equal Employment Office function. Instead, the same office that represents the department in EEO complaints was determining whether the claims had legal merit.

At the time, Hoecker recommended separating the two functions, which the diversity office seemed to do.

When reached by phone last week, Hoecker said he had not heard about Williams’ departure and that his office has not followed up on his recommendation because the diversity office was created, thus fulfilling his suggestion.

‘We closed the recommendation because he was hired,’ Hoecker said, adding that his office does not have plans to carry out another diversity audit.

The 2008 audit came in response to a steady stream of discrimination complaints and the fact that minorities have had trouble making their way to the top rungs of the management ladder.

‘They say that the department was founded in 1828 and they still act like it’s 1828 in terms of diversity,’ the current employee said. ‘Almost everyone sees it. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s not.’

In 2007 ‘ the most recent year for which statistics are publicly available ‘ 14.3 percent of the department’s executive-level positions were filled with minorities. The government-wide number was 16.6 percent during the same time period.

The department is fighting at least six race- or gender-based discrimination lawsuits, including one by more than 250 current and former black officers, who claim they were denied promotions and treated unfairly because of a hostile work environment.

Still, the Capitol Police has made improvements in the past decade. In 2002, no minorities were in the developmental pool, or positions that lead to higher-ranking jobs. But in 2007, minorities made up 22.7 percent of those positions.

‘I remain committed to fully establishing this office and ensuring the U.S. Capitol Police continues to adhere to the Congressional Accountability Act and build transparency and confidence in our management practices,’ Morse said in a statement.

Schneider said the department is in the process of finding a new diversity officer.

In the meantime, Gainer said the diversity officer’s duties will be carried out by Deputy Chief Matthew Verderosa, who worked in the department’s internal affairs division in the 1990s.