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Government and People
BUILDING A BETTER OFFICE OF THE CORPORATION COUNSEL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In March 2000, Corporation Counsel Robert R. Rigsby announced an office-wide Strategic Planning and Reengineering effort. The objectives were to take stock of the legal functions of the organization and its human capital, develop a course of action that would dramatically improve services, construct and justify a viable budget, and improve overall accountability and performance.1 The first phase took place during a 45-day period ending on May 5. The expected outcomes were to redefine the focus, values and goals of the agency; to identify short-term, immediate action steps; and to lay the groundwork for longer-term strategic changes through business process reengineering.
Under the leadership of Chere Calloway, Senior Deputy Corporation Counsel, the Strategic Planning phase commenced.2 An agency-wide employee survey was developed to gather data on each employees background, workloads, improvement priorities, general and specific recommendations for change. The 13 page, eight-part survey was distributed to 347 employees and completed by 241.3 This represents just under 70% of the affected employees, an astounding return given the length of the document and brevity of turnaround time.
Once survey responses were received, working groups were convened so that cross-sections of employees could discuss strategic and operational issues over a five-week period. Participation in the groups was voluntary. Each group selected its own leader(s). The groups were given charters but were free to set their own course. Nine separate groups were established: Alignment, Agency Counsel, Change Management, Library, Policies & Procedures, Space, Staffing, Training, and Vision & Mission.4 A Steering Committee was established to develop the strategic plan based on a synthesis and evaluation of the recommendations coming from the work groups and make recommendations for decision by the Corporation Counsel. While 150 employees originally volunteered, about 85 people actually participated in the working groups.
OCC managers and staff devoted thousands of hours of effort to the work groups over a five-week period. Encouraging employees to volunteer for any committee(s) that interested them resulted in diverse groups of people, many of whom who had not met, talked or worked together before. Groups ranged in size from 27 people (Alignment) to 8 (Vision & Mission). This approach resulted in extraordinary levels of candor and concern about the organization, its resources, business practices, capabilities and shortcomings. The process opened new channels of communication and resulted in some camaraderie across divisional and occupational lines.
During the course of their work, each group used a variety of methods to gather information and develop consensus on recommendations. They gathered documents and data from other jurisdictions, queried web pages on the Internet, interviewed section chiefs and unit heads throughout OCC, developed action lists, and debated issues in weekly or twice-weekly meetings. The reports produced by the ten work groups reflect the thinking of a wide range of employees from every job classification in the agency--some with thirty-years service and others with less than six months. Persons working in the Judiciary Square building and persons working in the field at agency sites participated openly and extensively.
Much remains to be done in the second phase, namely process mapping, data collection on workloads, and productivity improvement. The first phase was enormously productive in surfacing problems, identifying solutions, and communicating the will and priorities of the organization.
The mandate for change within OCC has been brought about by a number of recent developments:
These conditions and a series of widely held perceptions about the state of the OCC are expanded upon in detail in the Employee Survey. A blank copy of the survey and a Comment Summary are provided in the Appendix to this report.
This section highlights some of the information provided by employees in the Employee Survey and touches on some of the themes that emerged.5 Of the 241 responses received, 69% were from attorneys (including 17 responses from agency counsel), 17% were from paralegals/investigators, and 14% were from support staff.
Employees were asked to select the top ten things that would improve their ability to do their work. They were provided 60 items to choose from and had the option of adding their own. Table 1 shows the "Top Ten Things" selected by the largest number of employees:
Poor communication, which is reflected in three of the "Top Ten" categories, is a theme that resonates throughout the survey results and across several of the working groups. In virtually every mediumverbal, electronic, and in writinglack of communication is viewed as a serious barrier. One dimension of this issue is the lack of communication between OCC Judiciary Square and its field or agency locations. Individuals who work outside Judiciary Square (such as the Mental Health Division) complained vigorously about being excluded from the office e-mail system and hard-copy distribution of information. Concern also was raised about the occasional absence of daily mail delivery. Some divisions of OCC that are located in Judiciary Square (such as Child Support Enforcement operations) are not connected to an office-wide local area network (LAN) and therefore cannot communicate electronically with the rest of the organization.
As part of the survey, employees also were asked to inventory their workloads as of March 6, 2000.6 In addition to reporting the cases, matters and special projects they had pending, employees were vocal in their comments concerning the demands and pressures associated with high volume, complex, sometimes overwhelming workloads. Related to this view was the widely-held belief across virtually every division, that there are inadequate numbers of support staff, and often times poorly trained and unskilled staff, which burdens attorneys with tasks that should be carried out by others.
In addition, employees were asked to opine on: (a) what they considered to be optimal staffing levels, (b) functions or activities that could be transferred to other divisions or to other agencies altogether, and (c) ways to improve agency operations. Over 250 separate suggestions were received. These were candid, thoughtful recommendations ranging from a few sentences to several pages in length. Forty-two of these were widely held concerns, raised by numerous OCC employees. Employee comments and suggestions are paraphrased and summarized in the Appendix.
Employees were asked to identify which tasks (from a provided list that they could add to) consume most of their time each month. The top ten results for all four groups of employeesagency/field attorneys, OCC central attorneys, paralegals, and support staffare presented in Table 2. An analysis of the data reveals the extent to which attorneys perform a range of non-legal tasks and that support staff average 127 hours per month logging, sorting and distributing mail.
Steering Committee members reviewed the results of the Employee Summaries and identified several themes which they believe need to be addressed in order to improve the quality of services OCC provides and the quality of work life for more than 500 employees. Issues that dominated employee comments were:
Employees believe that staffing needs are not properly anticipated, justified or managed. Turnover continues to occur at an alarming rate. The hiring process is slow to respond. Some of the paralegal staff assert that paralegal salaries are not competitive. Other comments claimed that the student interns perform work done by trained paralegals and investigators.
Suggestions on how to address some of these matters included telecommuting and flextime. Strong sentiment was expressed that new employees should receive a welcome package, be assigned a sponsor or mentor, and be provided a well-equipped workspace upon arrival.
The results of the Employee Survey and the Steering Committees comments provide a backdrop for the findings and recommendations of the work groups. The Strategic Plan section that follows presents a broad and candid exploration of the organization, its mission, vision and values, its leadership, culture and human resources.
The first phase of Strategic Planning and Reengineering activity, which was completed in six weeks, has served to frame the issues to be addressed in Building A Better Office of the Corporation Counsel. The impetus for change arises not only from our own internal pressures, but from a set of principles and conditions that are driving other public sector organizations to reinvent and transform themselves into more responsive, results-oriented, cost-conscious, entrepreneurial governments. OCC exists in a rapidly changing, information-rich environment that demands anticipatory leadership, accountability, culture change and better performance. These are values the Mayor has adopted and is working to invoke throughout District Government. Traditional ways of managing this agency and its business processes are no longer an option. The OCCs customers, employees and managers will benefit immensely if it adapts to and evolves from conditions that have changed immensely in the past decade. This Strategic Plan is a starting point in that process.
This section of the report incorporates the recommendations of the Steering Committee under the following headings:
Each sub-section discusses the current and proposed state, based on the Steering Committees review of the work groups.7 Twenty-three explicit recommendations are provided.
Given the unique legal status of the District of Columbia, the Office of the Corporation Counsel has the distinction of serving not only as the Municipal law office, but as the attorney generals and the county attorneys office as well. The agency presently consists of the immediate office of the corporation counsel, ten legal divisions, and the management division. The central divisions and offices of OCC operate out of four separate facilities. In addition, as of October 1999, 58 agency counsel, dispersed across twelve agencies and several locations became subject to supervision by the Corporation Counsel.8 With an annual operating budget of $48.3 million and 513 full-time positions, it has evolved into one of the largest law firms in the Nations Capital.9 From its humble origins in 1877 under the Honorable Alfred G. Riddle, the office has a proud 123-year legacy.
The mission, vision and values of the OCC are presented below. Work groups that focused on these areas were Mission and Vision and Change Management. The current mission statement for the agency, as reflected in its FY2000 budget, is provided in Table 3. No vision or values statement could be located. The proposed mission statement is contained in Table 4, the proposed vision statement in Table 5, and the proposed values statement in Table 6.
The mission, vision and values statements below reflect what the Steering Committee believes to be a more descriptive and customer-focused set of values for the agency now and for the foreseeable future.
Recommendation 1: Adopt the proposed mission, vision and values statements following an organization-wide review.
The legal side of the agency provides a range of litigation (both court and administrative), advice and opinion giving, and legislative drafting services to the Mayor, Deputy Mayors and City agencies. Depending upon the circumstances, other customers include the courts, residents, and businesses located within Washington, DC. The Office of the Corporation Counsel:
While much concern was expressed that the current level of human and fiscal resources inhibited the Offices ability to competently perform all of its mandated duties, there was no overwhelming sentiment for changing the basic products and services. Various suggestions were made for shifts in responsibility to others, and elimination of "citizens duty" and "community prosecution" responsibilities. These are delineated in the "Functions" section of the Employee Comment Summary provided in the Appendix. It also was suggested that a serious evaluation be considered of the agencies abilities to take on new responsibilities, or declare a moratorium for some current responsibilities.
Because of its unique status within the government, the office has little competition for the work needed by its primary customers. However, there are numerous independent agencies that are part of the City Government who may or may not avail themselves of OCC expertise. These agencies represent potential additional sources of income and a training ground for the development of new expertise for agency staff.
Recommendation 2: Create a committee to, within 90 days, obtain up-to-date and reliable workload data, initiate a comprehensive review of all of the products and services performed by the agency, by volume, economic impact and other relevant indicators, and make recommendations concerning both new product or services offerings as well as the elimination or transfer of existing products and services. This group also should explore existing strategic alliances, other markets, and a marketing strategy.
Work Groups that focused on this area were Agency Counsel, Alignment, Change Management, Space, Staffing, and Training.
While there seems to be a general, albeit almost unstated recognition that the human resources of the Office of the Corporation Counsel are its most important asset, there is clearly a view that the human resources are not valued or respected by upper management (who, based on the comments appear to be the Corporation Counsel and the Senior and Special Deputies). Employees indicate various levels of frustration including:
The Senior Office leadership consists of eleven attorney positions:
Many of the people occupying the Senior Deputy positions are new to the Office of Corporation Counsel and are viewed with much suspicion by staff in general. There are five administrative/clerical staff that support the Corporation Counsel and additional division or section staff that support other senior leadership.
There is substantial opposition to the "top heavy" nature of the immediate office. In addition to murky understandings of the functions of the immediate office positions, there is a strongly and widely held conviction that the positions are unnecessary. Moreover, there is concern that the decision to create and hire the specialized Senior Deputies (Legal Counsel, Affirmative and Defensive Litigation, Economic Development, and Management and Operations) was arbitrary. Part of the reason for these conclusions is a view that the decision was not well explained either at the time it was made or subsequently. Another strongly held view is that creating these positions served only to eliminate the possibility of OCC obtaining desperately needed line attorney resources. Irritation also was expressed by many current Deputy Counsel and Agency Counsel that their access to the Corporation Counsel had, as a result, been diminished unnecessarily.
There was a great deal of dissatisfaction expressed with respect to supervisors in general. In some cases, there was a view that there were too many supervisors given the overall size of the legal staff. This was particularly true in regard to the new "super deputies. Others questioned the capabilities of supervisors and argued for more rigorous standards to be applied in the selection and retention of supervisors. Still others suggested that because most substantive decisions were made at the section chief level, this was another reason multiple layers of supervisors were unnecessary.
The overwhelming sentiment is that there are insufficient numbers of line attorneys given the depth, breadth, and scope of the work needed to be done. Concern also was expressed that line attorneys are not provided with adequate resources, including basic materials (such as e-mail, computers that work, dictionaries, and codes); adequate office, meeting and storage space; and paralegals and other support staff. In addition, criticism was made of chains of review:
As with most of the staffing issues discussed, there is a view that more paralegal staff and investigators are needed. Members of the Steering Committee noted that District paralegal salaries are not competitive with the marketplace. In addition, sentiment was expressed that paralegal staff and investigators could/should be given more or different responsibilities and that more training opportunities should be provided. The Training Group submitted a curriculum of 19 separate classes that would enhance the skills and utility of paralegals and investigators.
This is a group maligned on several fronts. Within their own ranks was expressed feelings of not being appreciated, not being treated with respect (particularly by attorneys), and not being considered valuable team members. Many felt that managers frequently typecast support staff, did not seem to know how to approach them, and fail to assign tasks that require creativity or non-traditional skills. Outside of their ranks, concern was expressed about the skills, willingness to work, and basic attitude of some of the clerical and other support staff personnel. Suggestions were made for additional training for clerical and other support staff on basic and specialized skills, as well as training for other staff on human relationships and respect of others. Another group of support personnel is the interns who were universally viewed as essential members of the OCC staff and without whom significant amounts of work would not be done.
Every organization has a culture. For purposes of this report, the term "culture" is defined as "the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a company or corporation."10 The Change Management Group believes that OCC lacks a "single" culture. Rather they saw a range of subcultures or islands. The Steering Committee, while agreeing that there are variations on the theme, nonetheless believes that the following is an accurate and representative sampling of shared attitudes in OCC:
This is not a complete list, but provides an indication of what many staff see as the OCC culture.
Of note was an expressed view that the "reengineering effort was an expression of managements negative attitude regarding the staffs competence to do their jobs," along with a "lack of trust in upper management over the issues related to the reengineering efforts themselves." Some employees expressed fear by that significant job losses would result from the reengineering activities.
From this dark cloud was one shining beacon of light: there is "a high dedication [by the staff] to the quality provision of services."
The human resources of the office must be viewed, at all levels, as OCCs most important asset.
The Change Management Group thought the restoration or in many cases, the establishment of trust, was the most important item affecting the human resources of the office. Interestingly to the Steering Committee, the Change Management recommendations placed all of the responsibility for this area with "management." For purposes of this discussion the Steering Committee is using the word "trust" to mean an "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something."11
Various recommendations were made regarding how to create an environment that supports productivity, the delivery of high quality legal services, and staff loyalty:
In the view of the Steering Committee, many of these requests, while representing laudable goals, reflect a lack of understanding of where responsibilities lie and the scope of OCC authority, and represent one consequence of the lack of timely and comprehensive internal communications.
Recommendation 3: Leadership within the office must continue and demonstrate its efforts to improve the provision of human and fiscal resources.12
There is no disagreement that this needs to be done. However, accomplishment of this recommendation cannot be limited to the actions of the office leadershipit will require the concerted efforts of the entire staff. Virtually all decisions concerning funding for the Year 2001 budget have been made. The top management of this office has been aggressive in pursing the 6% pay increase for attorneys, as well as supporting a "floating" attorney adjustment allowance (ARA) to provide the Mayor more flexibility to adjust the ARA.13 Discussions have been started with the Office of Personnel on the possibility of creating separate pay schedules for attorneys that might make an ARA unnecessary. Similarly, consideration is being given to adjustments for other staff, to more realistically address salary levels available to paralegals, investigators, clerical and other support staff in other parts of the City government and the federal government and private sectors. In addition, budget requests have been made and vigorously defended for additional FTEs, funding for training, and other line items. Notwithstanding significant efforts, many of the requests have not been approved or supported by the Mayor, Council, Control Board, or Congress.
What has been missing to support OCCs efforts to obtain more resources is solid data to support our claims. This is where the efforts of the entire office become important. To make a solid case for the FY 2002 budget for more staff, training money and other fiscal resources, we will need to demonstrate several things, including, but not limited to:
Recommendation 4: Establish a working group to develop, within 30 days, needed metrics and data collection methods to build and justify a larger budget for FY2002.
Recommendation 5: Provide training on the data collection methodologies and give supervisors the responsibility to ensure that data is collected and integrity maintained.
While there were many complaints that management did not respect non-management staff, it is clear from a review of the comments that disrespect is exhibited throughout every level of this agency. Consequently, personal actions are required.
One definition of "respect" is a "high or special regard."14 Staff at all levels must exhibit a high or special regard for each other staff member. What does this mean in practical terms?
Recommendation 6: Establish a Committee to, within 30 days, develop an action plan that addresses ways to foster respect through training, practice and by example.
Effective internal communications is essential for any agency, but particularly one with the diverse responsibilities and potentials for overlap and duplication with respect to work assignments, and the disruption caused by unfettered rumor mills. As was mentioned earlier, three of the Top Ten grievances that employees have are office, division, and agency wide- communications.
Recommendation 7: Institute regular communication in various forms to ensure frequent and open communication between individuals and across organizational lines.
Suggestions regarding communication improvements included:
Recommendation 8: Establish a committee to, within 30 days, develop specific inter-office communication actions with responsible persons and timeframes, including satellite and agency counsel offices.
This committee should address such items as:
A group of OCC attorneys and staff recently worked on the development of performance standards and evaluation tools for supervisors. A new committee must be formed to augment the work of the original group to include all levels of position within the organization, as well as to take into account new standards being issued by the Office of Personnel. This committee also should be charged with an evaluation of the current standards and their implementation and to make recommendations concerning process improvements and performance accountability training for supervisors.
Recommendation 9: Establish a committee to, within 60 days, address and resolve performance evaluation issues.
Much concern was expressed about the speed with which hiring is accomplished, the qualifications of those hired, and the use of vacancies as a budget tool. Turnover of attorneys has been significant over the past 2-1/2 years which adversely impacts the distribution and management of attorney workloads. In addition, suggestions were made to eliminate the hiring committee and let Deputies interview and select candidates for their respective vacancies. It was suggested that a non-attorney staff person be designated to issue vacancy announcements, collect applications and schedule interviews.
Recommendation 10: Establish a committee to, within 30 days, review the hiring process, outcomes and issues and recommend more efficient and effective ways to administer hiring.
The Space Group, in particular, raised a number of issues concerning safety and risk management. Comments from other groups and individuals, while not using those terms raised similar issues in connection with the condition of offices, halls, corridors, and the overall physical appearance of the office spaces.
Complaints received included the following:
The Space Group documented the number of vacant and occupied offices, meeting rooms, file rooms, computer and training rooms, and other areas assigned to the OCC in Judiciary Square. The Group focused on making space work as a tool for increased staff productivity and well being. Members examined the cost, use and varying conditions of OCC space. The Group took dozens of photographs of the office to document the hazards, conditions, and uses to which space is currently put. At the request of the Steering Committee, they chose 12 of the most illustrative to append to their report.
Recommendation 11: Develop a risk management plan and implement some portion of it before the end of this fiscal year.
Recommendation 12: Establish a committee to, within 30 days, review existing space allocations and requirements and make recommendations on how OCC can act in accordance with them.
The Policies and Procedures Group defined what constitutes policy and then set forth to collect examples of it. The Group collected known written OCC policies and existing orientation material, and contrasted that with the policy and procedure manuals of the US Attorneys Office (a 9-volume set), guidelines from the Office of Personnel Management, and the manual for the Montgomery County, Maryland Attorneys office (a 16-page document). The Group concluded that the current OCC policy process as "a dysfunctional morass of word-of-mouth policies, office memoranda, Corporation Counsel opinions, and more recently, e-mails, which are communicated to employees in a confusing and disorganized manner." To bring order to this situation, the Group made a series of recommendations and set forth a timeframe for accomplishing their objectives.
The creation of a set of policies and procedures for this agency is critical and should be treated as a high priority. The Steering Committee agreed with the timetable and most of the recommendations of the Group, but differed in its view of the role/authority of the standing committee and the method of form it felt the policy manual should take.
Recommendation 13: Assign responsibility for policies and procedures to the Management Division.
Recommendation 14: The Management Division should, within 30 days begin to plan, collaborate on and produce a draft policy manual.
Recommendation 15: Establish a Policy Development Committee to advise and assist the author(s) of the manual.
A major criticism of office operations was the lack of participation in decision-making afforded to staff in general. Establishment of this committee would provide a means to a cross section of agency staff, which must include persons from the Child Support Division, to actively participate in the proposal, development, buy-in, and implementation of office policies and procedures. Buy-in is important since without significant buy-in, employees will not comply, which unnecessarily results in confusion and discord.
One policy question that was included in the Employee Survey addressed the assignment of parking spaces to employees at One Judiciary Square. What would seem to be an innocuous issue is in fact a controversial one. Three facts contribute to the problem. First, there are only 40 parking spaces assigned to OCC, which has 513 employees. Second, spaces have been allocated on an ad hoc basis since OCC took occupancy of the building seven years ago. Many of the spaces are assigned to senior managers, executive staff, and long-term employees. Third, in addition to the sheer convenience of parking underground, the spaces are subsidized, meaning that the holder of each space pays a monthly fee that is lower than most commercial parking lots. The spaces are viewed as a scarce resource, distributed in a manner that is viewed by many as unequitable. The results of the survey should be used in the development of this policy.
Despite the massive volume of documents OCC generates, receives and retains each year, the agency has no program that addresses its considerable records management needs. Retention and storage guidelines are not being observed or enforced. Evidence of this is widespread. Large volumes of inactive files are stored in several locations on the 6th floor, in hallways and unsecured spaces throughout the agency, including the law library, occupied offices and elsewhere. Storing inactive records unauthorized areas violates privacy laws, fire safety codes, and sound document management principles. Storing them in makeshift office space is an extremely expensive use of the agencys limited physical space.
Recommendation 16: Assign the Management Division to review the recently drafted records retention plan which consists of immediate, short term and longer term actions with the policies and procedures group and issue them as soon as possible.
Work Groups that focused on this area were Library and Policies and Procedures. For purposes of this discussion, Information Systems encompasses traditional information technology matters, telephones, and library resources.
OCC has only recently begun to develop a computer system and application tools to help its employees and managers organize, manage and maintain information that ultimately helps them carry out their responsibilities. For years, OCC lagged behind other District Government agencies, and lacked basic tools such as voice mail, e-mail, Internet access, sufficient scanners and printers, Pentium-networked desktop computers, and training on basic software tools. OCCs network infrastructure is modern and features a fiber optic backbone and eleven servers at three locations. There are currently 350 users. Each desktop is equipped with 300mHz of speed, 6 gigabytes of storage, CD-ROM capacity, and 17 inch monitors. Basic desktop units meet or exceed the equipment used by other District agencies. Software applications include Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Office 97, Internet Explorer 5.0, Lexis-Nexis, and other tools. The agency contracts with a private computer firm for network operation, maintenance and help desk.
Despite this significant investment, staff comments indicated a need for system stabilization and enhancement activities are needed.15 Immediate priorities include: enhancing server maintenance, upgrading the existing local area network (LAN) to tie into the citywide wide area network (WAN) implementing an agency-wide case tracking and calendaring system, insuring remote access to all agency locations, and increasing computer bandwidth to improve access and speed. Meeting could be facilitated with teleconferencing capabilities. Large and complex cases involving hundreds and thousands of pages of documents could be better managed with document sorting and scanning capabilities. There are numerous ways improvements in the offices technology capabilities could enhance productivity.
What this demonstrates is the need for an information technology strategic plan to facilitate the agencys budgeting for and prioritizing needed investments. Such a plan also will enable the agency to comply with the Chief Technology Officers mandate to develop, refresh, and observe careful planning of information technology resources. Finally, OCC would benefit from an interactive web site.16
Recommendation 17: Identify the most appropriate case tracking and calendaring software and schedule implementation before the end of the fiscal year.
The Steering Committee recognizes that this is a serious and likely to be controversial recommendation. However, there have been hundreds, if not thousands of hours of meetings and discussions with numerous staff members concerning calendaring and case tracking systems. These meetings have resulted in no clear consensus or direction regarding what software, fields, report structure, or format would be optimal. Fault has been found with every option presented.
Divisions with some sort of tracking system are resistant to changing. Many divisions seem to want custom programs geared towards their specialty areas. Each section views its needs as "unique" and thus unsuited to an office-wide solution. Legitimate concern has been expressed about the cost of off the shelf software (particularly those costs associated with any customization that would need to be done now or in the future), as well as the experience of others in development of "from scratch" applications. The State of Wisconsin has spent 1 ½ years and over $1 million developing a criminal tracking system. The civil system is expected to be operational later this year or early in 2001.
There is no perfect answer. But the fact remains that the office needs something now, and a commercial off the shelf product can be obtained and put in use much sooner than could a custom designed system.
Recommendation 18: Develop, within 90 days, an information technology strategic plan with specific goals, timeframes, and resource requirements for 2000-2005.
An organization of this size, with its myriad technology needs, cannot function effectively in the absence of a strategic plan. The Office of the Chief Technology Officer has agreed to provide approximately $20,000 of consultant assistance to help with this development. In addition, some grant funds have been identified that might be able to be used either for plan development or implementation.
Various issues concerning telephones have been raised with the three most prevalent being lack of voice mail, insufficient call pick-up systems (including after hours coverage) and long distance service on desktops. Several employees have described the difficulty lack of these resources causes in their ability to efficiently do their work.17
Recommendation 19: Conduct, within 60 days, a complete review of the telephone system and available services and make recommendations for improvements. Revisit original decisions made concerning positions that should have voice mail and long distance access.
The role of the OCC law library is comparable to that of a law library in a large law firm engaged in an extremely broad practice. The OCC law library has an equally important function as a state library, maintaining an extensive collection of case law, statutory and administrative law and other legal reference tools. In addition, the OCC law library functions as a municipal law library, serving the executive and legislative branches of government and the needs of ordinary citizens. A staff of two manages the day-to-day tasks of logging mail, processing books, filing updates, reference work, shelving and cataloging.
In addition to maintaining a collection of approximately 18,000 volumes in the main library on 1-C, the law library is also responsible for furnishing resources to individual attorneys, divisions and sections, and satellite libraries located in the Appellate, Enforcement and Legal Counsel Divisions. Approximately 50% of the librarys expenditures are for resources not located in the main library. The non-personnel services budget for FY2000 is $127,000 does not include Lexis-Nexis on-line legal resources, small purchases, or general office supplies. The Library Group queried local law libraries and determined that the budgets and sizes of their collections were much greater than that of OCCs, and that a much smaller number of patrons are served in those libraries.
Although on-line legal resources were added to OCC desktop computers a year ago, the Library Group advises that electronic resources are no substitute for print versions, but should be considered a supplement to conventional hard-copy materials.
The Library Groups current unmet needs for shelving, materials and equipment totals $64,610. A one-time increase of this amount would provide all of the items and services below. The only recurring cost would be for serial orders in future years.
The most critical need, however, may be the physical space and physical attributes of the law library. During the seven years the law library has occupied space on 1-C, the library has been subject to numerous water pipe and wastewater leaks from the Barrista coffee shop one floor above the library. Water has stained the walls, carpet, shelving and contents of file cabinets. Air quality and ventilation are poor and lighting is inadequate. Current shelving is in violation of the fire code due to their height blocking the ceiling sprinklers. The large space formerly used to store files and material was converted hastily into a network administration center, with computer servers, equipment and staff fully occupying the space. This in turn forced the relocation of dozens of file cabinets and hundreds of boxes that had been in the storage room into the library areas.
Recommendation 20: Examine physical/space needs and determine with OPM if the library can be relocated.
Work Groups that focused on this areathe identification, justification and pursuit of adequate resources-- were Library, Space, Staffing, and Training.
Budget, accounting and financial functions for the OCC are centralized in the Management Division. Historically, the agencys financial management information has been generated and maintained by the 10th floor. Division deputies, section chiefs and office managers, for example, will contribute information when the annual budget is being formulated. They also will inquire about the amount of money that is available for purchases and services throughout the year, but the budget in general is not something each manager or employee is integrally familiar with. The Steering Committee believes that the amount of money the agency is authorized, has expended, and remains available, should be periodically provided to employees. A balance sheet for FY2000 is provided in the Appendix and shows the sources of revenue, and outlays by line item for the agency.
Recommendation 21: The balance sheet should be posted quarterly to inform OCC managers and employees of budgeted versus actual expenditures throughout the year.
The agencys FY2001 budget request was reduced by $7.3 million earmarked for a series of program enhancements, several of which were legislatively mandated. These included the Adoption and Safe Families Act, Community Prosecution Program, Implementation of the Legal Services Act, and a series of management improvement actions. In addition, the agency was told to absorb $1.21 million in within grade increases and salaries associated with vacant positions. The total shortfall, is $8.5 million for FY2001. This shortfall illustrates the dilemma of contraction of funds in response to conservative, well justified and in some instances, legally mandated requests for growth in the agencys resource base.
There is general agreement that the agency has not been able to present a business case for rebuilding its annual budget due to lack of information and data. One of the key objectives of the Strategic Planning and reengineering effort is to be able, for the first time in recent years, to gather and quantify the unmet needs of the agency. The first phase of the Strategic Planning effort revealed several explicit areas that warrant additional resources. Table 6 provides an estimate of the potential cost if we adopted some of the human resource and training needs identified by several of the work groups.
Clearly, the FY2002 budget is the opportunity to make the case for a larger OCC operating budget. Between May and December 2000, our attention must be turned to defining and documenting the resource needs of the new Office of the Corporation Counsel, based on decisions made in response to this report.
The Staffing Group expressed the belief that OCCs ability to confront and resolve its staffing issues will ultimately determine the success of the reengineering effort. The Group went on to say that decisions made during the reconstruction of the agency will impact employee morale and retention and the quality of legal representation for the District of Columbia. The Group began its work with a review of the essential functions of the agency, the types of positions needed to carry out its mission, the tasks associated with each type or level of position, and the number of employees needed to effectively manage the agencys responsibilities and workloads.
In its report, the Group clarified the tasks to be performed at each attorney-related or support position level. It then went about comparing OCCs current staffing level with those of 11 large cities, 21 counties and all 50 states. It found that the District was seriously understaffed in both attorneys and non-attorneys when compared to single-purpose jurisdictions. Using the data and assumptions presented in the first part of the Groups report, the District should have 273 attorneys and 300 support staff, for its state functions, local civil matters, and prosecution of local criminal matters. That is a total of 573 personnel, exclusive of child support administration and operations.
The Staffing Group then went about interviewing unit and section chiefs within the OCC to determine the number and type of staff they think they need in contrast to what they currently have. Units recommending additional positions were asked to justify the increases and describe the work that would be performed. This undertaking produced a matrix of current and recommended staffing levels by division. The matrix is presented at the end of the Groups report in the Appendix. The bottom line additions in staff appear in Table 7.
The financial impact of this recommendation is not insignificant. The salaries associated with 98 attorneys and 84 support staff are $9.7 million.
The Alignment Group undertook the task of recommending an organizational alignment that would remedy what is perceived to be a top-heavy organization divided into disparate divisions, clusters and offices. The Group reviewed a series of organizational concepts and chartssome that had proposed earlier for OCC and others that reflected state attorneys general offices and municipal law offices from around the country. The group reached consensus on four broad themes:
The Groups report, which presents a thoughtful examination of the way the organization is currently aligned and various alternatives to the status quo, is presented in the Appendix. The group developed an organizational chart that features a corporation counsel and principal deputy as senior leaders,19 with eleven divisions reporting to the principal deputy. These are: Government Operations, Legal Counsel, Major Equity Litigation, Special Litigation, General Litigation, Criminal, Appellate, Agency Counsel, Management, Social Services, and Child Support. Each division and its responsibilities are described in detail in the report.
The Steering Committee agreed with some of the principles underlying the proposed organization, but felt that:
The Steering Committee took the proposed organization and consolidated several divisions to group related functions and reduce the span of control. It viewed this approach as being consistent with the alignment used in most Attorneys General offices of comparable size and budget. It proposed a variation on the Alignment Groups work at the division/operating level and made no changes to the agency leadership recommendations:
Steering Committees Proposed Alignment
Civil Division to include tort claims, employment litigation, environmental litigation and public schools litigation
Community to include policy and appeals work, juvenile crimes, welfare fraud,
Prosecution misdemeanor and traffic, agency litigation, and criminal appeals
Family Division to include domestic violence, abuse and neglect, child support enforcement
Appellate to include all appellate work
Commercial to include civil and criminal tax, bankruptcy, bond review, condemnation,
Division and civil enforcement
Government to include ratemaking, procurement, personnel and labor relations, real
Operations estate, public space and zoning, and housing/community development
Agency Counsel the Steering Committee debated the merits of folding agency counsel into the Government Operations Division and decided against it. Committee members agreed that the transition of agency counsel into OCC is very incomplete and that Agency Counsel for the time being, should continue to report to the Corporation Counsel.20
Recommendation 22: Examine overall alignment in the context of staffing and program changes to be defined in Phase 2.
Recommendation 23: Agency Counsel as a group should meet and define, within 60 days, a detailed plan for transitioning and aligning into OCC central.
Much valuable and important work has been done. But as is clear from the number and type of concerns raised, and the recommendations contained in this report, much work remains to be done. Implementation of the recommendations must begin as soon as the Corporation Counsel has indicated his decisions regarding them. In the meantime, the next phase of continued data gathering and analysis, including workload data and additional process mapping must begin.
The Steering Committee wants to extend its appreciation of the hard work and dedication of all who participated in this effort. More than 85 people devoted their time and energy to serving on the working groups, and 241 people took the time to complete the survey.
We especially want to thank the committee chairs:
Agency Counsel, Ron Magnus
We also want to thank Corporation Counsel Robert R. Rigsby for encouraging all of us to take a critical look at OCC and propose change. We pledge our assistance in implementing his decisions and continuing the task of "Building a Better OCC".
1. The Legal Services portion of the Child Support Enforcement Division was included in the scope of this effort but no other portion of the Child Support Division was included in this reengineering effort.
2. This phase was essentially an assessment and issue identification phase. While some systematic changes will result from this phase, more far-reaching and significant changes will likely result from the short-term actions proposed for Phase 2 and the longer-term actions proposed for Phase 3.
3. Employees who did not submit survey responses will be pursued/included in Phase 2.
4. The Agency Counsel group was formed late in the process and as such only met once. Their work will continue.
5. The surveys provide a wealth of information that will continue to be reviewed and reported upon during Phase 2 of this process.
6. The responses in this area were disappointing. A great many people provided either no information or responded in such a way as to make it impossible for us to determine accurate work loads as of March 6. We will pursue the gathering of appropriate information in Phase 2.
7. These reports, which range from 5 pages to 30, and include text, spreadsheets and photographic material, are attached to the original of this document. Copies for inspection and review by OCC staff are available in the library and other agencies at Judiciary Square.
8. The agency also includes the Child Support Division, an operational unit transferred to the Office of the Corporation Counsel in 1998. Because this Divisions activities were not the subject of the OCC Strategic Planning and Reengineering activities, very little will be said about it.
9. $22 million of the agency's budget and 180 positions are dedicated exclusively to child support operations.
10. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary On-Line.
11. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary On-Line.
12. This must include pursuit of, where appropriate, of telecommuting, flextime, evaluation and promotion criteria and policies, and incentive awards.
13. Actions have included multiple meetings with Office of Personnel and Budget staff, testimony supporting the 6% raise before the Council, and memoranda sent to the Mayor regarding the need for this increase (along with the need for additional funding for Family Division staff and training funds).
14. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary On-Line.
15. For the most part, employees did not suggest the list of specific items mentioned. Rather, they described problems or concerns that these types of enhancements or actions could address.
16. Work on the web page has already begun. Basic designs have been developed consistent with the citywide standards, and Deputies have been asked to provide information for inclusion. In addition, the Child Support Division has been invited to add their materials to the OCC site. The office of the Chief Technology Officer has agreed to provide some limited technical assistance in this endeavor at no cost to the office. Proposed changes within the Management Division will, if implemented, provide the capacity for OCC to maintain the pages as needed.
17. The Management Division has begun some work in this area with respect to long distance availability. Calling cards are being acquired for various divisions that should improve staff's ability to place long distance calls.
18. These figures do not include the costs of benefits, office space, office equipment, etc. needed to support these individuals.
19. The Alignment Group and the Steering Committee agreed that the Corporation Counsel and Principal Deputy must retain the ability to determine the content and size of their personal staffs.
20. Agency Counsel were invited to meet on the subject of alignment and did so on April 19. There was a lively discussion of some of the issues faced by agency counsel, the nature of their work, and the need to develop guidelines and timelines for interaction. The group advocated for implementation of Order 34-99 which speaks to the relationship between agency counsel and OCC.
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