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Federal Eye: OPM chief John Berry defends Friday work decision

Despite a difficult Friday commute for many federal workers, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry defended his decision to keep federal offices open Friday, saying safety and government operations are the only factors he considers when making such decisions.

“The decision is never based on 100 percent perfection,” Berry said in an interview Friday afternoon. “It’s can you operate safely.”

Berry delayed the opening of Washington area offices by two hours, and he allowed federal workers to take unscheduled leave if they preferred. The government had been closed for four full days this week due to heavy snows, and it shut down early Friday so workers could beat the bad weather. It will also be closed Monday for Washington’s Birthday.

Several Federal Eye readers decried Berry’s decision after suffering through lengthy and, in some cases, unsafe commutes on Friday. They said the area was far from prepared for the influx of federal workers, with the region’s transit network still hampered by the snowfall.

Berry bases his decision to open or close offices on recommendations from members of the Metropolitan Council of Governments, a regional organization. It includes representatives of 21 local governments and the District of Columbia, transportation officials from the District, Maryland and Virginia, and area members of the Maryland and Virginia legislatures, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

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AJ Malik

There is a real contradiction between the need/ROI for the necessary heavy snow removal infrastructure investment, that most northern cities have, and the fact that DC is a world class city which should not be paralyzed by inclement weather.