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County Council August 18

County to more seriously address diversity issues
Warwick Jones, standing in for Shawn Keller who is on military duty in Iraq

The most surprising thing about the new diversity initiatives before the Finance Committee last night was that they were necessary. It is not that a policy is unnecessary. It was just surprising that something kin to that considered last night was not already in place. In an exchange with a citizen who spoke before the Committee, Chairman Stavrinakis stated that the Council had already been beaten up on the issue and the members had beaten each other. In a way, this was a confession of the inadequacies of the past policy. However the County's Procurement Director noted that as far as a policy for "procurement" was concerned 43 of the 45 other counties in the State did not have a Minority Preference Program in place, though we presume they had diversity policies for Human Resources.

Committee member Bostic concerned about some costs
Only committee member Bostic voted against the adoption of the resolution before the Committee. He objected not to the initiatives themselves but the lack of data relating to the cost of implementation. Committee member Darby who has been the champion for the initiatives, was disturbed by Committee member Bostic's reticence. This was an important issue and deserved everybody's support. Strangely we don't understand why Committee member Bostic voted against the whole initiative when it was really only one small part that seemed to concern him - the commitment of Council to pay all the tuition and book expense of County employees who wished to pursue the GED or college degrees. The HR director of the County thought the cost would be an extra $100,000 or so a year. We thought that in some way, a decision on the payment of education costs alone could have been deferred. But nobody suggested it.

Summary of initiatives
Some of the initiatives that Council has already implemented are
• Creation of a Diversity Committee to develop ideas for expanding diversity in the workforce
• Annual Diversity Awareness presentations for all department heads

Initiatives that are underway or will be implemented include
• Diversity training for all managers, supervisors and employees who participate in the interview .selection process.
• Expansion of the exit interview process to determine cause of departure
• Train all supervisory personnel in "Behavioral /Team Interviewing by the end of this year and then implement Team Interviewing for new hires and competitive promotions.
• Increase HR outreach strategies.

The County's Procurement Director stated that the problem with diversity in procurement had little to do with race but more to do with economics. Many minority firms could not afford to comply with some of the stipulations required by the County such as bonding and insurance. Some firms did not feel the bureaucratic paper hassle was worth while. What ever reason, the share of minorities in the County's procurement outlays, where measurable was only 3%. And as required by State law, the definition of minorities also included women.

Procurement already has made attempts to raise minority participation with hiring of a dedicated person to buy from minority vendors. As well, the Procurement Director now has some discretion to modify bond requirements for contractors on construction projects The Department also supports proposals for a Disparity Study and is developing "good faith effort " documents to ensure minority participation in construction contracts.

Dog days for the SPCA
Every body supports the John Ancrum SPCA. But nobody wants the facility in their back yard. A move from its present location next to the jail on Leeds Avenue has been on the cards for some time. The site is needed for the construction of the new jail, and which is becoming increasingly urgent.

The County is giving every assistance it can including a $1 million grant to help it move but it cannot find a suitable site. The plan to build on a site it chose in North Charleston earlier this year has been abandoned because of objections from the community. The County now proposes to give it a 5.1 acre parcel at 2144 Melbourne Street in North Charleston, the site of the former temporary Judicial Center. However, some members of the neighborhood are now objecting. So the matter has been deferred until Council gets a clearer view of residents' views.

Tougher policy for employees using County vehicles
Committee member Darby raised the issue some months ago though it seems that the policy was up for review anyhow. Who should have has the right to take County cars home or as the County says, a right to home garaging? The conclusion is" not many". And although there may be some trepidation in terminating the right for those who presently home garage, the Country will be helped by IRS policy.

Ignoring the law enforcement division, about 25 vehicles are home garaged presently. Almost certainly this number will be reduced. IRS policy states that if cars are used primarily for commuting to and from work, then the employee must pay tax on the value of the usage. This in turn is based on an estimated lease rate for the car. If the car is a conspicuously marked County vehicle and is necessary for performance of work, then the IRS is unlikely to impose a tax. Or if the car or truck holds special equipment and the driver is can be called out on emergencies or has business in diverse parts of the County, again, a tax is unlikely.

It was proposed that a written policy for the County be formulated with criteria uniform for all employees. As well there should be strict record keeping.

The final report by the M.A.P Commission was tables last night. This will be covered in a report to be posted later today

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