Arundel councilman seeks diversity audit of county workforce

In an effort to examine minority hiring practices in Anne Arundel County government, Councilman Daryl D. Jones has introduced a measure that would require the county government to audit its workforce and present its findings publicly.

Jones, a Severn Democrat, has urged supporters to attend Monday night's council meeting, where residents will have their first chance to weigh in on the proposal during a public hearing before the council.

The proposed resolution, which was written by Jones and is co-sponsored by Councilman Chris Trumbauer, an Annapolis Democrat, would require the county to conduct a study of all departments of county government.

The following issues would be examined: the presence of minorities in the employee population by job type, gender and ethnicity; procurement policies that ensure the participation of minority-owned businesses in county government purchasing; the expansion of investigatory and enforcement powers of the county's Human Relations Commission; and improving minority community engagement in county government.

If the measure passes, the county would have until the end of March to provide the results of the study to the County Council and the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

At a recent meeting of the county's African American Leadership Council, Jones, who is the second African-American to have served on the County Council, spoke of the importance of transparency on the issue.

"If you don't ask, you won't know, and if you don't look, you won't see," said Jones, who will begin serving a five-month prison term next month for failing to file a tax return and whose future on the council is unclear.

He added, "I need you to be there on Dec. 19."

Dave Abrams, a spokesman for County Executive John R. Leopold, said the information that the resolution requests is readily available to members of the public.

"County Executive Leopold acted on individual complaints as well as concerns raised by the NAACP, and continues to do so," said Abrams. "We would be happy to provide the information requested to anyone who asks. I don't understand the point of this resolution."

The county's workforce is about 15.4 percent African-American, according to county officials, a figure that mirrors the county's black population. Three African-Americans hold Cabinet-level positions in the county; one department head is Asian. Also, an African-American is director of the county's Workforce Development Corp.

Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the county's NAACP, first made a request for a study of the demographics of the county workforce to the council in September. Then-Council Chairman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd, a Republican who represents the Severna Park area, said then that the request should be directed to the Leopold administration.

Ladd could not be reached for comment.

Carl O. Snowden, director of civil rights for the state attorney general and a longtime Annapolis civil rights activist, said a recent examination of the county's Board of Education employees showed there are "more black janitors than there are black teachers" working in the county school system.

"Representation is important," said Snowden.

Snowden said that the request in Jones' resolution mirrors the information that was requested and quickly supplied from the county school system.

An analysis of its employees completed in August showed that the Board of Education employed 493 African-American custodians and 386 African-American teachers. Overall, the school system had 9,504 employees — including 1,410 African-Americans, 233 Hispanics, 106 Asians, 25 American Indians, five Pacific Islanders and 120 employees who identified themselves as two or more races. Because of frequent personnel changes, the August statistics have likely changed.

Bob Mosier, a spokesman for schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell, said the county school system has the only program of its kind in the state dedicated to recruiting a diverse group of teachers, but he conceded that "there's more work to be done."

"We are absolutely committed to a diverse workforce," said Mosier. "A diverse workforce is one of the things that will help our students realize their full potential. … Clearly there's more work to be done, and we're committed to do it."

Yevola S. Peters, special assistant to the county executive for Human Relations & Minority Affairs and director of the county's Human Relations Commission, said if Jones or the NAACP wants the information, they should just request it from her.

"It's just a matter of somebody saying, 'That's what we want to do,'" said Peters. "You don't have to have a resolution in the County Council. It's about asking the administration for the information. I haven't received a request."

Peters said the Human Relations Commission is engaged on the issue of diversity in the county government workforce, and in the past has responded to requests from the NAACP to examine the minority representation within the ranks of the county's librarians and the Fire Department. Currently, she said, the commission is studying diversity in the county's Police Department.

"The county executive is very interested and wants to see a good diversity — the appropriate diversity," said Peters. "He's certainly been supportive of what the commission's work has been."

Trumbauer, who said he signed on as a co-sponsor because diversity is an issue worth examining, said it's appropriate to put the issue for a vote before the council, which he said "ensures" that it gets the proper attention.

"I represent a very diverse district," said Trumbauer. "I think diversity is a strength. I think doing it as a resolution by the County Council kind of underscores the importance of it. Doing it in a public way makes sure it's going to be done and there's notice of it."

Councilman John J. Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, called the resolution "a waste of time" and "political feel-good legislation."

"The administration's already done everything in compliance with county law," said Grasso. "It's just nonsense. They can get the information from the county. Why are we duplicating this again? They already have the figures on diversity."

Asked whether the diversity of the county workforce merits attention, Grasso said, "I could care less one way or another. We got bigger problems to worry about than this nonsense."

Councilman Jerry Walker, a Davidsonville Republican, declined to comment on the resolution. Council Chairman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican, did not return a call seeking comment.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now