Tuesday, November 01, 2005

After A Promising Start, Kilgore Fails to Lead With Inclusion

Four years ago, Jerry Kilgore began his tenure as Attorney General by appointing women to serve both as his chief deputy and his chief of staff. This was a refreshing change from the administrations of the previous two Attorneys General, (see, Kilgore Making A Place At the Table for Women, Virginian Pilot, December 12,2001), and his choices held the promise of inclusive leadership.

This November Jerry Kilgore is asking us to hire him as Virginia’s chief executive and chief state personnel officer. Accordingly, it is appropriate to review his record as Attorney General to see if, in fact, his leadership lived up to the promise of inclusion suggested by first two appointments.

Sadly, the record shows that it did not.

When Kilgore took office in January 2002, the Office of the Attorney General ("the Office") was one in which the positions carrying higher ranks and higher salaries were dominated by white men. After four years of Kilgore’s leadership (and that of his handpicked successor), the profile of the Office remains largely unchanged, with some indicators actually moving backward.

According to that EEO-4 reports filed by the Office in 2001, 2003 and 2005:

 The percentage of women working in the Office fell from 61% in 2001 to 57% in 2003 and 53% in 2005.

 Despite being a majority of the employees in the Office in all three reporting periods, women were only 23% of the full time employees making more than $70,000 in 2001, 23% in 2003 and 28% in 2005.

 The percentage of African Americans working in the Office fell from 17% of the full time employees in 2001, to 15% in 2003 and 13% in 2005.

 Like the women employees, in 2001 African American employees were concentrated in the lower salary ranks making up only 2.53% of the employees making $70,000 or more (2 men). In 2003, the percentage of $70,000 plus earners fell to .02% (1 man). In 2005 it rose to 4.5% (2 women, 2 men).

 There was one Hispanic employee in the Office in 2001 and 2003, a woman in a para-professional job making between $33,000 and $42,900; and three Hispanic employees in the Office in 2005 (5%), making between $55,000 and $70,000.

 There were 3 Asian and Pacific Islanders in the Office in 2001 -- two were men making over $70,000 in administrative or professional positions and one was a woman making between $33,000 and $42,900 as a technician. By 2003 the number had fallen to one woman in the same salary grade. In 2005, the number rose to four, three women and one man, none making over $70,000.

The reason for the lack of progress in increasing the diversity of the Office, in general, and, particularly, at the higher ranks, can be explained by the disproportionate impact on women and minorities of layoffs made by Kilgore in October 2002, and Kilgore’s failure to make diversity a priority when making new hires.

According to the complaint filed in Huang v. Kilgore, a case challenging the 2002 layoffs (on which I was co-counsel), among the fifty one (51) employees terminated by Kilgore in October 2002, 80% (41) were women, 88% (45) were over 40 years old, at least three (5%) of the terminated employees had physical or medical disabilities that were being accommodated by the Office and at least eight of those terminated (16%) were people of color.

The Office’s EEO-4 report covering 21 new hires during fiscal year 2003 shows that Kilgore hired no African American men, no Hispanics, no Asian and Pacific Islanders and only two African American women during this period. The new hire report filed in 2005 shows that among 39 new hires between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005, none were African American men, three were African American women, one was a Hispanic woman and one was a male Asian or Pacific Islander.

Some might ask why we should care that Kilgore failed to lead with inclusion as Attorney General. This is not a concern framed by ideology or party.

Kilgore’s failure to include all Virginians equitably among the employees and, particularly, the leadership in the Office of the Attorney General, meant that, when important legal and policy questions were being decided, women and minorities had no more than token representation in the discussions and in most cases no representation at all.

No one doubts that diversity improves decision-making. According to the authors of Understanding the Dynamics of Diversity in Decision-Making Teams, diversity has moved from a social issue to “a strategic business imperative” in the workplace. The same authors cite senior managers at one Fortune 500 company who say that “managing diversity effectively leads to such consequences as a solid reputation as one of the best places to work, an empowered workforce, greater innovation, increased productivity and a competitive advantage in global competition.”

As taxpayers, wouldn't we want to gain the benefit of these kinds of “consequences” in our state workplaces?

As voters, shouldn't we demand that the person who wants the job as chief executive and chief personnel officer of Virginia demonstrate a basic understanding of and commitment to the benefits of diversity?

As citizens, can’t we agree that Virginia’s women and minorities deserve some assurance that they will be “at the table” when important issues like transportation, public safety, education or health care are discussed?

The full record of Kilgore’s tenure as head of the Office of the Attorney General gives no such assurance.

For me, that’s a sad conclusion to an administration that started with such promise.


Steve said...

Did you include the fact that Mr. Kilgore's last employment decision was to advance the cause of his female successor in your assessment of the "full" record?

Anonymous said...

How many of the positions were civil service jobs and how many were political appointments? To me, that's a key issue. If the political hires are undiverse, that reflects the reality of his political universe - there aren't a ton of black lawyers in and around the VA GOP. If the civil servants are having issues with hiring and retention, then there may be something to it.

-- Conaway

CG2 said...

You're right, of course. The current AG is a woman who was hired by Kilgore as Deputy AG. But, the decision to elevate her to Attorney General was not an "employment decision" of Mr. Kilgore's. It was a vote of the legislature guided by Mr. Kilgore's advocacy in his own political interest. The cynic in me has to wonder, did Kilgore figure that, if he started well and ended by lobbying to move the only senior woman lawyer left in his office into the AG's slot, no one would notice the pattern and practice of his "employment decisions" in the years in between? And, yes, I know that his first woman chief deputy went on to be a Virginia Supreme Court justice, and she was replaced by a white guy. When the solicitor general left, he was replaced by a white guy. Kilgore had, at least, two senior counsels, both white guys. etc. etc.

Let's be clear, nearly half of the people graduating from law school now are women (and his hiring rate was below that) and Kilgore's hiring rate for minorities (in any jobs)is so far below availability as to consistute a prima facie case of discrimination.

Thanks for prompting me to expand on the record.


CG2 said...

All of the positions in the AG's office are at will, that is, none are civil service with tenure rights. In administrations prior to Gilmore's, only the very top positions were thought of as "political," and many employees stayed for years and years through changes in administrations, albeit not always in the same jobs. For example, my personal secretary as a Deputy AG had been Marshall Coleman's personal secretary when he was AG.

Gilmore made everyone, including the secretaries and messengers, resign and reapply for their jobs. Since then, the whole office has been more political....

Steven said...

Claire, I love the 'new' look!

Q. If Kilgore failed his promise, tell us how Kaine or Potts have raised the bar?

~ the blue dog

F.T. Rea said...

Claire: See this post on SLANTblog: http://slantblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/bad-letter.html

It casts a pinpoint light on Kilgore's methods as the AG. To me, this little episode is a revealing aspect of a bigger picture.

-- Terry Rea

CG2 said...

The letter Jack Richardson got was the same letter all employees laid off in October 2002 got. And, a disproportionate number of those laid off were, like Jack, long-serving employees of the office ... just the opposite of most layoffs where senority counts for you not against you. And, Jack is right, Kilgore chose to interpret the Workforce Transition Act as not covering the employees of his office... a decision that denied them severance benefits available to all other long serving state employees. I know this because I was a part of a team of lawyers who represented these employees in an effort to right this injustice.

Unfortunately, Kilgore agressively defended his interpretation of the law, using procedural arguments, etc, to draw out the litigation. And, when he got additional budget dollars to hire more employees did he hire back those "laid off"? No.

All in all not a record that one would want to see replicated across state government.

CG2 said...

Blue Dog:

Two things are true. I hold everyone to the same high standards. In fact, my "friends" will tell you that I am often harder on them than I am on my "opponents." And, accountability is important regardless of who is in office.


Steven said...

Claire: I have no doubt, but it's all in the details -- 'taint it.

~ the blue dog