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Obama administration’s highest ranking openly LGBT official leaves OPM

Monday, April 15, 2013
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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s highest ranking openly LGBT official resigned his post, effective Saturday, April 13.

John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, announced his resignation April 11 in an email to OPM employees, just days before his four-year term was up. The Washington Post reported in March that Berry is believed to be “the leading candidate” for an appointment as the new U.S. ambassador to Australia.

John BerryOPM

Vic Basile, openly gay counselor to the OPM Director, said Berry’s last day at work was April 12 and that OPM’s current general counsel, openly lesbian attorney Elaine Kaplan, will serve as acting director until a new director can be confirmed.

Kaplan herself was nominated in March by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a bench of 16 active judges who hear lawsuits against the U.S. relating to taxes, government contracts, natural resources, and foreign governments.

The White House issued a statement from President Obama April 12, saying Berry “has served the American people well.”

“He’s streamlined the way federal employees are hired, modernized the workplace, made the federal workforce more diverse, and increased the number of returning servicemembers hired by the government,” said the statement. “John has been a champion for federal workers – men and women who devote their lives to vital tasks like securing our borders, curing disease, and keeping the American people safe. This country is better off because of John’s talent and dedication, and I’m grateful to him for his service.”

In his email to employees, Berry praised the OPM during his term for having increased the percentage of veterans and people with disabilities hired for federal jobs and having brought more women and minorities into the Senior Executive Service.

Berry’s email also noted that the OPM has made health insurance possible for the same-sex partners of federal employees.

The Federal Times reported in March that Berry expressed frustration with a Congressional imposed hiring freeze at a time when the federal workforce is being criticized for not doing enough to maintain cyber security.

“I don’t know what straw breaks the camel’s back, but I can tell you this,” said Berry, according to the Federal Times, “We are close to the edge of the cliff. …We cannot recruit and retain a qualified workforce by freezing their pay forever.”

Some news media headlines announcing Berry’s departure referred to his OPM post as a cabinet position, even though the White House does not consider it as such. Federal News Radio referred to Berry as “the best known OPM director” in history.

Bill Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, called Berry a “very strong advocate” for federal employees and one with an “open door” to labor.

Berry’s resignation came just days after the OPM Inspector General submitted a report indicating some OPM officials had awarded contracts to a human resources contractor without competitive bidding. The report stated that an investigation “did not identify any evidence that Director Berry engaged in any inappropriate conduct.”

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