After more than a year without a quorum, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate a second voting member to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
The president will nominate Andrew Maunz to a seven-year term as an MSPB member. If confirmed by the Senate, Maunz would serve as the vice chairman of the board. He’d also join Mark Robbins, the current, lone member of the agency’s board, and restore a long-awaited quorum.
Though a second nominee from the White House would fully staff MSPB’s three-member board for the first time in a few years, another nomination would technically slow the restoration of the agency’s quorum.
When he’s confirmed and sworn in, Maunz would begin to vote on the more than 765 cases currently awaiting a second opinion from another MSPB board member. Robbins, who Trump designated as the MSPB’s chairman last January, has been reviewing and voting on the cases that have come to his office since then.
Administrative judges can and have continued to issue initial decisions on employee cases, but petitions for review have languished without a second board member. MSPB just needs a vote from one other board member to make final decisions on pending petitions for review.
MSPB has been without a quorum since Susan Tsui Grundmann left the agency on Jan. 8, 2017 — the longest gap in the agency’s history.
Some federal employee groups applauded the choice of Maunz but seemed particularly relieved by the choice to name any nominee at all.
Maunz has been an attorney for the Social Security Administration’s Office of the General Counsel since 2008, where he represented the agency in employment litigation before the MSPB, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Federal Labor Relations Authority.
He also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in federal court.
The Federal Employment Law Training Group, which teaches employment law to federal managers, described the announcement as exciting news in an email to its members and described Maunz as someone who would be familiar with the agency’s principles.
The Government Accountability Project, which advocates on behalf of federal whistleblowers, said it’s still waiting for the White House to name a second nominee to the board.
“Now it is imperative for the president to nominate a Democrat for the board’s final slot,” said Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project. “Whistleblowing may be the only issue in Congress with unanimous bipartisan support. It would be inexcusable to turn implementation of the Whistleblower Protection Act into a partisan matter through an all-Republican board.”
If the Senate confirms Maunz, he’ll join an agency that’s preparing for a bigger workload. In its fiscal 2017 report, MSPB said the Trump administration’s government reorganization initiative and plans to reduce the size of the federal workforce could bring more appeals involving furloughs, RIFs or early retirements through Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP).