Top 1 Magazine

Top One Magazine

Hispanic Caucus weighs ousting its chair over top staffer’s firing

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are preparing to convene a virtual meeting that could lead to Rep. Nanette Barragán’s ouster as chair, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The previously unreported news of the meeting comes just one day after Barragán (D-Calif.) fired the group’s executive director, Jacky Usyk, a little over a month into the job. Usyk was fired via an email for “insubordination,” one of the two people familiar with the group’s dynamics told POLITICO.

“This is a disaster,” said one Democratic chief of staff for a Hispanic Caucus member, granted anonymity to discuss the group’s internal discussions — as were several others who spoke for this story.

Barragán’s actions surrounding the Usyk firing are prompting anger from within the group and skepticism that she will be able to lead it going forward, according to more than a dozen people interviewed. Both people who confirmed the Hispanic Caucus’ imminent meeting on its chair described it as a potential step toward seeking her removal after Barragán’s axing of its top adviser left the influential Democratic group without any staffers at the start of a new Congress — alarming lawmakers and aides alike.

The turmoil also threatens to hurt the Hispanic Caucus’ engagement on issues important to the communities its members represent, because the executive director works with the chair to set the group’s priorities. In addition, the staffing change and resulting controversy over Barragán’s move could also distract the group from working on policy at a time when its members are preparing for intense negotiations this Congress on immigration in the Republican-controlled House.

“Jacky is no longer with the CHC. We wish her well in her future endeavors. We do not comment on internal confidential personnel matters,” Barragán told POLITICO in a statement on Thursday. Asked on Friday to comment on the news of a virtual meeting to discuss her leadership of the caucus, Barragán’s office did not respond.

The Hispanic Caucus’ vice chair, Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), is considered next in line to run the CHC. His office did not respond to a request for comment on Barragán’s alleged management issues.

Usyk, a well-respected Hill veteran who declined to comment for this story, rose up through the ranks of Democratic offices before coming to the Hispanic Caucus. She served most recently as a top leadership aide to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and worked previously for Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who’s now in Hispanic Caucus leadership as well.

The harsh scrutiny of Barragán comes at the outset of her tenure as CHC chair, a position that she won unopposed after its previous chair, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), was term-limited out of the job. Her personal office ranked third for highest turnover rate of any House office from 2001 to 2021, according to the nonpartisan tracking site Legistorm.

Dear White Staffers, an Instagram account popular with Hill aides, first posted about Usyk being fired Thursday night and POLITICO confirmed the news shortly after.

After its former policy director recently departed to run another Hill group that represents younger Americans, Usyk’s firing leaves the CHC with no employed staffers as of Friday. The group had been set to bring on a new communications director next week, but it is unclear whether that aide, Bianca Lugo Lewis, will start the job as planned. Lugo Lewis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There is some ambiguity in the group’s bylaws about its chair’s ability to unilaterally fire staffers. One of the people familiar with the group’s dynamics who confirmed its meeting on Barragán also told POLITICO that the chair is given authority to hire staff but less clear power over dismissals.

Another two people familiar with the situation said Barragán sought counsel from the House’s lawyers before making the decision.

Barragán has a reputation of being a strict boss who struggles with high turnover in her office, a dozen current and former Hill staffers told POLITICO. Just a few years ago, during her first term, she had conversations with party leadership because of her staff churn, according to two separate people familiar with that situation.

The office of then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who likely took part in those conversations with Barragán, declined to comment, citing its policy on addressing private member-to-member conversations.

Go To Source