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Hon. RALPH R. ROBERTS,
Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives,
MAY 24, 1965.
DEAR MR. ROBERTS: The Subcommittee on Accounts of the House Administration Committee recently conducted hearing on H. R. 7572, 89th Congress, which would prevent payment of compensation to persons employed by Members of the House of Representatives when such persons perform their official duties outside of the District of Columbia or Congressional district or home county of such Member.
In the course of the hearing it was brought out that Section 2 of H. Res. 294, 88th Congress, which passed the House on August 14, 1964, and which was continued in the 89th Congress by provisions of H. Res. 7, contained language designed to accomplish the same objective as H. R. 7572. The Subcommittee on Accounts directed the Chairman of the House Administration Committee to inquire concerning the enforcement of this provision of H. Res. 294. This letter is directed to you as the Disbursing Officer of the House of Representatives.
The Committee is aware of at least one instance which appears to be in violation of this provision. There may be others. I refer to the employment of Y. Marjorie Flores whose name appears on the payroll of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell and who appears to perform her official duties in Puerto Rico. The three attached articles refer to this employment. In view of the apparent violation of Section 2 of H. Res. 294 and H. Res. 7, the Committee asks that you look into this matter to ascertain if there is a violation and, if so, take appropriate action to adjust in accordance with the law.
While it would be a monumental task to check each employee with respect to where that person performs official duties, it would be logical and feasible to canvass Members to obtain their certification of compliance with this requirement.
The Committee would like to hear from you regarding the employment status of Y. Marjorie Flores. The Committee would also like to ascertain your plans to eliminate any employment of persons who might currently be employed in violation of the provisions of H. Res. 294 and H. Res. 7.
With best wishes, I remain,
OMAR BURLESON, Chairman.
Q. Could that be marked "Langston Exhibit No. 1"?
(The above-referred-to document was marked "Langston Exhibit No. 1" and received in evidence.)
Mr. TAYLER. I offer it now, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HAYS. Without objection, the letter may be inserted in the record at the proper place.
By Mr. TAYLER:
Q. Mr. Langston, did you find in your committee files any reply from the Clerk of the House to Chairman Burleson to the letter that has just been admitted into the record?
A. Yes, sir; on June 9 a letter was received addressed-June 9, 1965-a letter was received from the Clerk of the House addressed to Chairman Burleson that went into some detail concerning the matter.
Q. Again, without reading the entire letter into the record, would you describe in substance what the Clerk of the House's reply was?
A. In substance, the Clerk stated that when a Member of Congress certifies an employee to his payroll, then the Clerk has to assume that person is properly employed and he does not go behind the Member's signature. In substance, that is what his letter states. It is a fourpage letter.
Q. Did the Clerk, in substance, say he was not going to make any inquiry into whether or not Y. Marjorie Flores was performing any services?
A. That is correct. He indicated in his lettter he would not.
Q. Or whether she was performing the services in the specified locations that are set forth in the statute.
A. Yes, his letter just disclaimed the responsibility for checking that.
Mr. TAYLER. May that be marked "Langston Exhibit No. 2"? I I would offer that at this time, Mr. Chairman, to be inserted at the proper place in the record.
Mr. HAYS. Without objection, it will be inserted at the proper place in the record.
OFFICE OF THE CLERK,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Hon. OMAR BURLESON,
Chairman, Committee on House Administration,
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Your letter of May 24th, accompanied by clippings from sundry newspapers and magazines, was received promptly. I have given very thorough consideration to the matter therein presented.
As you very aptly stated in your communication, the problems inherent in enforcing the provisions of section 2 of House Resolution 294 of the Eighty-eighth Congress as revived by House Resolution 7 of the Eighty-ninth Congress are "monumental". The 436 payrolls of the Members of the House of Representatives and the one Resident Commissioner, now embrace a total of over 3,775 employees with a potential increase upward to 1000 additional clerks at any time the Members see fit to present me with valid appointment papers. The average total monthly expenditure to cover the payrolls of clerks to Members has now reached $2,500,000, or a total expenditure for one year approaching $31,000,000. A further complexity of the situation is illustrated by the statement that we have 2000 rates of pay which may be set by the appointing authorities on the payrolls by the House of Representatives. The monthly payroll of the clerks to Members is almost continuously in a state of flux. We have had as high as 3,500 changes in the course of one month.
It has been firmly established by opinion of the Comptroller General of the United States, by long practice, and referred to many times in the audit reports of the Comptroller General in reporting his examinations of the records of the Disbursing Office that:
"Section 92 of Title 2 of the United States Code provides that appropriations for Members' clerk hire shall be paid by the Clerk of the House of Representatives to persons designated by each Member, whose names, together with the amount to be paid each, are to be placed upon the roll of employees of the House of Representatives, such persons being subject to removal at any time by the designating Member with or without cause. Professional staff members and clerical employees of standing committees are authorized by 2 U.S.C. 72a to be appointed by a majority vote of the committee. By the provisions of 2 U.S.C. 60g, Members and chairmen of standing committees are authorized, within specified limits, to rearrange or change the schedules of salaries and numbers of employees in their respective offices or committees, and are required, on or before the tenth day of the month in which such rearrangements or changes are to become effective, to 'certify in writing such rearrangements or changes to the disbursing office, which shall thereafter pay such employees in accordance with such rearrangements or changes.' No statutory requirement for the further certification of the monthly payrolls of Members' clerk hire or committee employees has been found.
"Accordingly, it appears that once such an employee has been properly designated or appointed and placed on the rolls you are legally authorized to include his name upon the monthly payrolls without further certification, on the as
sumption that services have been rendered in the absence of advice to the contrary from the appointing Member or committee chairman, pending receipt of advice of his removal or a certification as required by 2 U.S.C. 60g."
In his yearly audit reports of his examination of the records of the Disbursing Office, made upon my request, the Comptroller General of the United States has consistently included the following language with reference to this matter:
"The majority of disbursements are for payment of Members' Clerk Hire and the salaries of officers and employees of the House. Payrolls are prepared in the Disbursing Office on the basis of designations and appointments by the * * * Members of the House. Employees' time and attendance is not reported to the Disbursing Office and salary payments continue until a notice to terminate is received *** payrolls covering Members Clerk Hire * * * are signed by the Clerk of the House without certification on the assumption that the services were rendered by the designated employee in the absence of advice to the contrary from the appointing Member."
The clear implication of this well-defined and established policy and rule is that it is practically impossible for the Clerk to secure certified payrolls of the 436 Members in order to make timely payment of the upward of 3,775 clerks under the existing changing conditions inherent in the rolls of Clerks to Members. It is further indicated that the Member, who is the appointing authority and who is required to file valid papers of appointments of his clerks upon which the Clerk of the House continues to make disbursements until changed by him, is by those acts of appointment and removal certifying to the Clerk that the appointments are regular, in order, and in full compliance with all requirements of the laws and resolutions of the House pertaining to Members' Clerk Hire. Such actions of the Members and of the Clerk of the House of Representatives are therefore in accordance with the opinion of the Comptroller General of the United States as heretofore stated.
This being the existing rule and policy with reference to enforcement of laws relating to the performance of duties, it is clear that the primary source of enforcement of Section 2 of House Resolution 294 of the Eighty-eighth Congress, as revived by House Resolution 7 of the Eighty-ninth Congress, is with the appointing authority which in this case is the Member or Resident Commissioner. Under existing laws he directs their labors and superintends their performance in assisting him with his representative duties. He specifies the employee's time and attendance in such manner as he may direct and makes no report to anyone relative thereto. It is clear that the certification of authentic papers of appointment of a clerk to a Member or a Commissioner, together with proper supporting papers to the Clerk of the House for the purpose of placing a name on the Member's Clerk Hire Roll and the filing of a letter of termination of such an employee by the Member, constitutes a certification by him that he has complied with all laws and resolutions of the House. The Comptroller General of the United States, in his written opinion to me, has clearly stated that this is all that is required.
It is on this premise, this long established rule, well recognized and accepted, that the Clerk has been making his disbursements for many years. It does not appear from the reading of section 2 that the House intended that the Clerk should require of Members further verification of compliance with law. If it had desired him to do so, it would appear that specific language to that effect would have been included and he would have been given the means to investigate the services of 3,775 employees of the Representatives and Commissioner, in order to secure the facts upon which to base his refusal to disburse the salary of any or all of these clerks that may not be in compliance with the provision of the House Resolution to which you refer. Such a course would entail the employment of additional clerical assistance and a considerable staff of investigators, with the additional authority to expend money for travel and related items. There appears to be little wisdom in this course of action.
It is my opinion from a reading of this Resolution that the House did not intend this and that the present requirements of certification of appointments to the Clerk are sufficient for the purpose.
In compliance with the last paragaph of your letter to me, you are informed that a person by the name of Y. Marjorie Flores is presently employed as a clerk to Representative Adam C. Powell of New York. These papers are regular, in order, and authentic, and appear to be valid. The salary check is presently being mailed under this employee's direction to the office of the Member of the House of Representatives here in Washington.
I have examined the newspaper clippings accompanying your letter which refer to the employment and marital status of this employee, and I feel that it would be highly improper for me to make a determination as to the nature of the employment of this person and to withhold payment of salary on the basis of poorly written and highly inaccurate newspaper clippings even if the Clerk had authority to do so.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, it is my considered judgment that I am without the means and the authority to follow the suggestion made in your communications. I extend to you every good wish.
RALPH R. ROBERTS, Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives.
(The above-referred to document was marked "Langston Exhibit No. 2" and received in evidence.)
By Mr. TAYLER:
Q. Mr. Langston, in the correspondence which you have just described and which is now in the record, there is reference, is there not, to two House resolutions and a public law with respect to the place where a clerk-hire employee must perform the services for the Member? A. Yes; that is correct.
Q. Would you identify those two resolutions and the public law? A. Yes, sir. The first resolution is House Resolution 294 of the 88th Congress, which passed the House on August 14, 1964.
Q. Would you read the pertinent provision of that resolution as it relates to the place where the clerk-hire employee must perform the services in order to receive the compensation.
A. Yes, section 2.
SEC. 2. No person shall be paid from any clerk-hire allowance if such person does not perform the services for which he receives such compensation in the offices of such member or resident commissioner in Washington, District of Columbia, or in the state or the district which such member or resident commissioner represents.
Q. Was that resolution readopted in the 89th Congress?
A. Yes, sir. House Resolution 294 was not written into permanent law and expired at the close of the 88th Congress. It was reactivated and extended or its features extended into the 88th Congress-——————
Q. I think you meant into the 89th Congress.
A. I am sorry, 89th Congress, by House Resolution 7 which was adopted January 4, 1965.
Q. House Resolution 7 does not set forth the language that you quoted from House Resolution 294, does it?
A. No, it does not. It merely states that provisions of House Resolution 294 are hereby continued in the 89th Congress.
Q. Did there come a time when House Resolution 7 was enacted into law in this Congress?
A. Yes, sir. It appears in Public Law 89-90, which was enacted into law on July 27, 1965. It appears on page 17.
Q. Would you read the sentence that is pertinent?
A. Yes, sir. "Provided, further, the provisions of House Resolution 7 of said Congress shall be the permanent law with respect thereto."
Q. Could those be marked "Langston Exhibit No. 3-A, B, and C," A being House Resolution 294, B, House Resolution 7, and the statute being C.
JANUARY 6, 1965
[H. Res. 294, 89th Cong., 1st sess.]
[Rept. No. 1813]
[Omit the part struck through and insert the part printed in italic]
Resolved, That, effective April 1, 1963 January 3, 1965, there shall be paid out of the contingent fund of the House, until otherwise provided by law, such sums as may be necessary to increase the basic clerk hire allowance of each Member and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico by an additional $4,500 per annum, and each such Member and Resident Commissioner shall be entitled to one clerk in addition to those to which he is otherwise entitled by law. No person shall be paid from such clerk hire allowance at a basic rate in excess of $7,500 per annum, and not more than one person shall be paid a basic rate of $7,500 per annum from such clerk hire allowance at any one time.
SEC. 2. No person shall be paid from any clerk hire allowance if such person does not perform the services for which he receives such compensation in the offices of such Member or Resident Commissioner in Washington, District of Columbia, or in the State or the district which such Member or Resident Commissioner represents.
[H. Res. 7, 89th Cong., 1st sess.]
Resolved, That effective January 3, 1965, the provisions of House Resolution 294, Eighty-eighth Congress, are hereby continued during the Eighty-ninth Congress.