The MSPB’s new annual report documents the impact of the long-running vacancies in leadership there, saying the backlog of appeals continues to build and that the agency is unable to carry out some of its other functions, as well.
The MSPB has now lacked a quorum on its governing board for more than three years and is approaching a full year without any members. Without at least two members, the board cannot decide on appeals of decisions from its hearing officers—who continue to make such decisions at the rate of 5,000 a year—and the backlog at the board level now exceeds 2,500 cases. In some cases employees are able to pursue their appeals in federal court instead.
Also, without at least one member, the MSPB is unable to issue “stays” of personnel actions in cases where prohibited personnel practices such as whistleblower retaliation are alleged. Legislation to empower the agency’s general counsel—who is running the agency for the interim—to issue such stays was considered but did not pass Congress last year.
Nominees for all three seats cleared the Senate committee level last year but have not reached a floor vote, reportedly because of a “hold” placed on at least one of them by a Democratic senator. Republicans meanwhile have insisted on bringing all three to a vote at the same time.
The agency also currently is not authorized to issue in-depth reports based on its research into personnel issues, although it has continued to issue less comprehensive white papers and a periodic newsletter. Agency personnel also continue to appear at events such as legal conferences and congressional hearings and briefings.