Architect of the Capitol

Architect of the Capitol finds itself in court over discrimination cases
Court rules that second discrimination case can go forward

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Architect of the Capitol finds itself under fire for alleged discrimination, and could be headed to messy federal court fights over the matter.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a reasonable jury could agree with an AOC employee that he was discriminated against for his national origin when he was denied promotions in 2014 and 2015.

Heavy rains cause closure of tunnel between Rayburn and the Capitol ... again
Pedestrian walkway and one subway was closed temporarily

The pedestrian walkway in the Rayburn tunnel that connects to the Capitol floods due to heavy rain Monday. (Chris Marquette/CQ Roll Call)

As raindrops pummeled those walking to work on Capitol Hill, a heavy accumulation of water flooded the pedestrian walkway in the Rayburn House Office Building tunnel, causing it to be closed for about an hour.

The pouring rain overflowed into the pedestrian walkway connecting Rayburn to the Capitol and — although the subway furthest from the walkway experienced no interruption — the train closest to the flooding was not in service during the cleanup. 

Appeals court orders trial in discrimination suit involving Capitol architect's office
Employee alleged his name was mocked by hiring team considering his promotion

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A racial discrimination lawsuit filed by an Architect of the Capitol employee who was passed up for a promotion will move forward to trial after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a district court that had dismissed the case.

The appeals court found that Javier Mayorga, who emigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua in 1990, presented evidence that could lead a jury to infer he was the victim of discrimination. An electronic industrial controls mechanic in the Capitol Superintendent’s Office, Mayorga has been an AOC employee since 2007. He has received numerous awards and his work was rated “outstanding” in his previous two evaluations, the court ruling said.

Just where is this secret House jail located?
A Capitol basement investigation yielded some answers

The Lincoln catafalque is seen Wednesday through bars in a chamber below the Capitol Crypt. Contrary to many a rumor, this is not the House jail. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi resurfaced one of the Capitol’s most enduring mysteries when answering a question about whether Democrats might imprison Trump administration officials who defy Congress: the House jail. But where is this mysterious cell?

“We do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol, but if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation. And I’m not for that,” Pelosi said Wednesday at a Washington Post live event.

Native American representation on Capitol Hill concerns House lawmakers
Appropriators take aim at what they call offensive art and disrespectful tours

House Appropriators are urging the Architect of the Capitol to work with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to contextualize portrayals of Native Americans on Capitol Hill. Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and pictured here, spoke at the opening of the museum in 2004. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

House lawmakers are raising issues about Native American representation in and around the Capitol — and they aren’t talking about the record number of Native American women in the 116th Congress.

A House Appropriations Committee report released Wednesday highlights disrespectful descriptions of Native Americans on Capitol tours and depictions in artwork around the Capitol campus, which “do not portray Native Americans as equals or Indian nations as independent sovereigns.” 

IG Report: Some members of Congress sexually harassed night-shift custodians
Architect of the Capitol officials accused of creating ‘culture of permissibility’

An Architect of the Capitol worker paints the wall at the top of the escalator to the Senate subway in the Capitol in November 2015. A recent report alleges a sexual harassment ‘culture of permissibility’ in the AOC. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Members of Congress allegedly sexually harassed night shift custodial staff while they cleaned their offices. Sexual harassment prevention training went off the rails. And the Architect of the Capitol has no unified system for effectively tracking complaints and resolutions of sexual harassment cases.

These are just some of the findings in a recent inspector general’s report on sexual harassment within the AOC in the last decade.

The bells of Congress, they are a-changin’
Architect of the Capitol eyes replacement ‘legislative call system’ of bells and clocks

The Architect of the Capitol is moving forward with plans to replace the bells and clocks of the legislative call system. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There’s a new tempo coming to Capitol Hill, as plans move forward to replace the bells and clocks of the legislative call system. That means the familiar buzzes and blinking lights that have ruled the corridors for years could be changing.

The Architect of the Capitol is looking to commission the development, design and installation of a revamped system. It will work alongside the existing network used to alert members of Congress and staff to action on the floor.

House and Senate building superintendents placed on administrative leave
The high ranking Architect of the Capitol employees are under investigation

The House and Senate building superintendents, who work under acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdron, picture here, have been put on leave, pending an investigation into inappropriate emails. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two high ranking Architect of the Capitol employees charged with leading all operations of the House and Senate office buildings have been placed on administrative leave, an AOC spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

House Building Superintendent Bill Weidemeyer and Senate Building Superintendent Takis Tzamaras were placed on leave pending an investigation into inappropriate emails. Weidemeyer and Tzamaras both report to acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon, who took the helm of the agency in late November 2018 after Stephen T. Ayers retired.

GAO says Architect of the Capitol needs workforce management changes
Government watchdog points to 2017 layoffs and urges formalized process to collect information on staffing needs

The Government Accountability Office says the Architect of the Capitol needs to revamp some workforce practices. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Architect of the Capitol’s construction division is designed to provide flexible labor options across the agency, but the Government Accountability Office says AOC needs to institute a formal process for collecting information on projects and priorities to better manage the temporary staff. In recent years employees in the construction division were given little notice of layoffs due to lack of work in certain jurisdictions.

In a report released this week, the GAO says AOC has missed opportunities to obtain information critical to making informed decisions about project staffing.

Should Congress spend more on itself to avoid deterioration?
Former lawmakers and groups think crisis is brewing if investments not made

Civil society organizations and former lawmakers are calling on appropriators to boost funding for Congress itself to avoid a “crisis.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Civil society groups and former lawmakers are calling on appropriators to boost funding for Congress itself to stem what they call a “significant loss of institutional capacity.”

Ten former lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, joined more than three dozen groups to pen letters to House and Senate appropriators asking that the Legislative Branch slice of the federal funding pie get a bit larger. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Eva M. Clayton of North Carolina were among the former members to sign the letter, which was led by the advocacy organization Demand Progress.