U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:

Circumstances Surrounding the Teaching of Out-of-Town University Courses by General Counsel

OSI-98-7R: Published: Mar 31, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1998.

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Eljay B. Bowron
(202) 512-3000


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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated the circumstances surrounding the teaching of courses at the University of Pennsylvania, during the 1996-97 academic year, by the General Counsel for the Commission on Civil Rights, focusing on: (1) how much authority the Commission Chair, Mary Frances Berry, had in deciding who would teach the university courses; (2) whether Dr. Berry had authority to discontinue the teaching assignment before all responsibilities were fulfilled; (3) whether other Commission employees had been denied permission to teach; and (4) the impact the absence of the General Counsel had on the backlog of projects at the Commission.

GAO noted that: (1) during July 17, 1997, oversight hearings before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Dr. Berry stated that upon learning that she was seeking a replacement to teach classes during the 1996-97 academic year, the General Counsel--Stephanie Moore--had expressed a desire to again teach at the University of Pennsylvania; (2) Dr. Berry also stated that she had told Ms. Moore that she would recommend her for the teaching position if approval to teach was granted by the Commission's then Staff Director, but would terminate the assignment if it interfered with Ms. Moore's duties for the Commission; (3) the Chair of the History Department, University of Pennsylvania, confirmed that professors who choose to take sabbatical leave have full control over their replacements and can terminate such assignments at any time; (4) GAO's interview with Dr. Berry developed no information that conflicted with the statements made by the university official; (5) further, GAO found no evidence that Ms. Moore's absences for the outside teaching position contributed to the backlog of Commission projects; (6) similarly, GAO identified no other Commission employee who has been denied--or who had even requested--permission to teach; (7) in the course of conducting its investigation, GAO learned that Ms. Moore had not requested an alternative work schedule to accommodate her need to be absent from the Commission to teach; nor had she charged annual leave for the hours she was absent; (8) in defense of her actions, Ms. Moore's attorney indicated in a letter to GAO that Ms. Moore had worked on Commission matters for more than 40 hours per week, often on the train while traveling to and from Philadelphia and at her office at the university; (9) he told GAO that Ms. Moore had worked nights and weekends and typically would go directly to the Commission upon her returning to Washington, D.C., at about 2:00 p.m. on the days that her classes ended at noon and at about 6:00 p.m. on the days that her classes ended at 4:30 p.m.; (10) the Commission's Administrative Manual clearly states that employees must charge leave for absences that occur between 9:15 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.; (11) although the manual permits employees to have some flexibility, it does not allow them to perform work at alternative work sites or to accumulate hours for work performed outside the Commission's flexitime hours of 7:15 a.m. through 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; and (12) therefore, Ms. Moore's failure to rearrange her work schedule or to use leave is in apparent conflict with the requirements of the manual.

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