(WASHINGTON ) – The American Federation of Government Employees Local 2741 told the DC City Council not to confirm acting director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreations (DPR), Dr. Ximena Hartsock. According to AFGE Local 2741, who represents employees throughout the DPR, Harstock is responsible for closing the agency’s Office of Educational Services, which has provided child care services for working families since 1974.
“Since Dr. Hartsock arrived in April, qualified and experienced employees have been terminated under the guise of budget cuts, only to be replaced by inexperienced personnel who rely on the knowledge and expertise of DPR staff,” said Ben Butler, president of AFGE Local 2741. “As acting director Hartsock has shown that she intends to dismantle the DPR. She has snubbed the City Council, the dedicated workers of DPR, and the children and families that they continue to serve.”
Earlier this summer, under the direction of Hartsock, DPR moved to eliminate the Office of Educational Services. Representatives of the agency have claimed that the elimination of child care services is due to a $4 million deficit. However, in a letter dated August 17, 2009, Eric Goulet, the D.C. City Council’s Budget Director insisted that there were sufficient funds in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education budget to finance these jobs. The resulting conclusion is that either the monies were depleted without explanation or Council approval or that the money is in fact available, but the administration has ulterior motives to privatize a successfully publically administered program.
Likewise, in June 2009 the Council of the District of Columbia passed Bill 18-275, the “Day Care Facility Emergency Act of 2009” by a 13-0 vote and expressly prohibited the Executive Branch from issuing bids for daycare services that are offered by DPR. Rather than comply with the law, the D.C. Attorney General, Peter Nickles, condemned the Council’s action, challenging the law. Since that time, the administration has ignored the actions of the Council and moved forward, privatizing the department’s daycare function through a contract with the United Planning Organization.
“Dr. Harstock ignored the law unanimously enacted by the City Council, she has ignored our labor management agreement, and she has shown no respect for the years of dedicated services seasoned DPR employees,” said Butler. “When Hartsock eliminated child care employees, she said that they should leave with dignity. Now, we want her to do the same.”