Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Regular Meeting Notes - Draft

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 3:30 PM

Scott Heyman Conference Room

 

Attendance

 

Attendee Name

Title

Status

Leslyn McBean-Clairborne

Chair

Present

Lisa Holmes

Member

Excused

Marcia Lynch

Member

Present

Larry Roberts

Member

Present

Christina Dravis

Member

Excused

Todd VanOrman

Member

Excused

Anna Kelles

Vice Chair

Present

Amy Guererri

Commissioner of Human Resources

Present

Joe Mareane

County Administrator

Present

Paula Younger

Deputy County Administrator

Present

Xavier Rusk

Paralegal Aide, Human Rights Department

Present

Kim Cornish

Education and Outreach Coordinator, Human Rights D

Present

Erica Beversluis

Compliance Coordinator

Present

Kit Kephart

Commissioner, Social Services

Present

Michelle Pottorff

Chief Deputy Clerk, Legislature Office

Present

 

Guests:  Henry Granison, Jennifer Karius, Shawna Black, Tompkins County Legislature Candidates; Anne Koreman Tompkins County Legislature Candidate and Finger Lakes PULSE; Kathy Jett, Finger Lakes PULSE; Rob Brown, Tompkins County Worker's Center; Jason Molino, member of the public

 

Call to Order

              Mrs. McBean-Clairborne, Chair, called the meeting to order at 3:35 p.m.

Welcome, Introduction, and Announcements

              Following an introduction of members Mrs. McBean-Clairborne provided an overview of the history of the Committee since it originated in 2006 as a special committee of the Legislature.  She said most of the special committees of the Legislature are made up of Legislators; however, WDIC is unique as it has also been the intent to be inclusive and have representation from community members who may be experts in particular subject matters, and from employees, giving them an active role in changing the culture of the organization.  Mrs. McBean-Clairborne invited others to join as efforts move forward to continue the conversation on how the cultural competence conversation within County government and Tompkins County as a whole is being changed.  This is now an advisory committee that reports and provides recommendations to the Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committee.  She highlighted some of the work of the Committee, noting the two Climate Surveys that have been done. 

 

              Mr. Roberts said he would like to work with employees and people connected to the County in the workforce and increase the ability of people to have difficult and important conversations so that people are encouraged to attend book groups and other kinds of committees and learn how to talk to each other across issues.  He said the Committee has also supported training and its belief that a recognized and appreciated workforce will embrace diversity much easier than a workforce that doesn't feel appreciated.  Mrs. McBean-Clairborne commented that over the last few years the County has put more funding in the budget for training and education around issues of diversity and inclusion for the County's workforce.  Ms. Guererri said the Legislature has shown great support for funding reward and recognition programs for employees.

Minutes Approval

August 23, 2017

              Due to lack of quorum the minutes of August 23, 2017 were deferred to the November 22, 2017, meeting. 

RESULT:              DEFERRED

Discussion Items

LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Tool Kit - Office of Human Rights

                            Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said several months ago Mr. Brown brought to her attention some interaction he had with Office of Human Rights around LGBTQ+ and law enforcement issues and during the conversation he was lauding a Policy Toolkit the Office of Human Rights had put together.  She said the Committee wasn’t aware of this and she reached out to the Office of Human Rights to invite staff to share information as this has been a focus area for the Committee.

 

              Mr. Brown described the issue at the Worker’s Center that made him aware of the Toolkit and said the Worker’s Center is the community advocate of a female sexed gender non-binary lesbian police officer who has been a whistleblower for policy deficiencies and discrimination within the Ithaca Police Department.  He described things the Center became aware of from this unique situation and stated they reached out to the Office of Human Rights for assistance in the complex intersection of issues with law enforcement and the laws regulating them.  Because it is a critical issue as far as providing a safe and affirming place for LGBTQ+ to work if they choose to work in law enforcement and because of the pressing interest in the well-being of the LGBTQ+ public in the intersection with law enforcement they felt it was critical to bring it to the County’s attention and initiate a dialogue on instantiating more comprehensive standards and legislative implementation of reforms for the well-being of LGBTQ+.

 

              Mr. Roberts said the local LGBTQ+ Task Force recently decided to no longer be a 501c and is glad to see there is a mechanism for issues that are important to them to be brought forward.

 

Mr. Rusk distributed copies of the Safe Space Policy Toolkit and said it is available on the Office of Human Rights website.  He said this is a very complex issue and with policies being changed across the country.  He said after being contacted by Mr. Brown the Office first began the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a statute that has been promulgated and enforced by the Federal Department of Justice and noted Federal regulations established the minimum rights that everyone is entitled to.

 

He spoke of LGBTQ+ rights and interactions when dealing with law enforcement and said the Toolkit is meant to give law enforcement guidelines on how to create policy to where they are being inclusive and made to be aware of how they should interact with LGBTQ+ people in the areas of housing, how to conduct searches, when medical examinations are permissible, and when placing them in protective custody is permissible.  He said New York State has also passed protections for people in employment based on gender identity and expression. 

 

At this time Mr. Rusk reviewed the Toolkit and recommendations for law enforcement agencies as they work toward developing policies that protect the civil rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.  While explaining the list of definitions he noted the “Policies for Protecting LGBTQI+ Individuals in Custody” calls for people to consider a person’s gender identity and expression when deciding what facility they will be placed in.  The next recommended guideline is to require individual assessments for placement of LGBTQ+ individuals within 72 hours.

 

The next area Mr. Rusk addressed was creating clear guidelines for searches and supervision of transgender individuals.  It was clarified that for physical searches a female officer can search anyone; however, a male officer is only allowed to search others who are male by sex regardless of whether transgender.  Mr. Rusk said if a detainee is transgender they have the right to request who may search them.  When talking about who an employee can have search another person an employer is restricted when it comes to male officers searching someone who is male and someone who is female; he said the rights first kick in once someone identifies as transgender.  

 

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne clarified that the discussion is about what officers should know about detainee’s and officer’s rights and what should be put into place for them to understand.  Mr. Rusk said the Toolkit provides sample language of what a policy would look like and each section is introduced with information and suggestions that could be adopted.  There are other alternatives that exist but the idea is to get a broad sense of building a more inclusive policy. The Toolkit talks about eliminating policies that are centered around sex segregation.  Mr. Rusk also provided examples of instances of  imbalance between State and Federal laws.

 

Mr. Brown said the Worker’s Center likes to make a clear distinction between individual advocacy and policy advocacy.  He described the situation facing a client of the Worker’s Center that created a situation of workplace harassment.  He hopes to work with the County on developing new policy framework that are in compliance with law enforcement and more culturally affirming that provide a better workplace for LGBTQ+ people interested in careers in law enforcement.

 

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne questioned how as a County we can make sure that we are putting together and adopting a policy so that there can be something that dictates how law enforcement should behave.  She spoke of the importance of having a policy that is enforceable and that there is understanding and buy-in and asked for suggestions of how to move this forward. 

 

Mr. Roberts said there are two different ways to look at this.  The first is a policy for County Corrections officers and those who interact with inmates, and the second is what way could the County impact the policies and laws in other jursidictions. 

 

Mr. Brown said the Worker’s Center strongly requests that the County adopt a local law that is binding on all municipalities within its jurisdiction.  Ms. Kelles supported moving in this direction and thinks a policy could be developed soon that would lead to and help inform a local law.   She spoke of being far from there being a mainstream understanding and suggested starting to use the many community resources that are available. 

 

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne suggested working with Ms. Younger on developing draft policy language for the County.  Ms. Younger suggested looking at existing policies such as the anti-discrimination policy, to avoid duplication. 

 

Ms. Kelles said she envisions a policy that deals with individuals in custody and another on individuals in the workplace. Mr. Brown said he will provide a copy of an Albany policy. 

 

The following offered to participate in a subcommittee with Mrs. McBean-Clairborne to begin looking at this:

 

Anna Kelles

Amy Guererri

Xavier Rusk

              Anne Koreman

              Kathy Jett

              Rob Brown

              Erica Beversluis

              Paula Younber

 

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne will provide a list of potential meeting dates and canvas the group.  Mr. Rusk will look across the State to see what other resources may exist.  A copy of the Local Law No. 6 of 1991 will be provided to Mrs. McBean-Clairborne.  At the suggestion of Ms. Karius, Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said there would be opportunities for public involvement in the process.

 

Announcements

              The following announcements were made:

 

              West Africa Dinner fundraiser will be held on November 4th at the First Baptist Church;

              Leon Lawrence Recognition Dinner will be held on October 27th at The Space;

 

              Mr. Roberts said there are several Community Read events scheduled and encouraged others to visit the Public Library's website for information.  Mrs. McBean-Clairborne encouraged others to attend the performance of Brahman/i at the Kitchen Theatre. 

Diversity and Inclusion compliance for contract agencies

              Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said there are a lot of agencies that receive funding from the County and the Committee has been asking for four years how these agencies are being monitored to see:  if they have diversity and inclusion policies, how are they working those policies within their organization, and who is monitoring those.  The Committee would like to see that agencies, both as an employer and the services they provide to the community, are practicing what they state in their diversity statement and inclusion policies.  She will be asking Kathy Schlather, Executive Director of the Human Services Coalition, to attend a meeting and discuss this with the Committee. 

 

              Mr. Mareane said with respect to non-discrimination, which is an important part of the County's contractual relationship with agencies, the County has very strong language that is contained in all contracts.  The Office of Human Rights has recommended language that will be incorporated into vendor contracts in 2018.  With respect to diversity and inclusion he said efforts were stalled around how plans would be monitored and what information would be needed from the vendor or agency. 

 

              Mrs. McBean-Clairborne spoke of the importance in holding people accountable and would like this to move forward.  She would like the Committee to have a full discussion and develop action steps but would like to have Ms. Schlather in attendance. Ms. Younger said when she hears conversations relating to anti-discrimination she puts it within the context of law and noted there is Title VI which exists to all County departments and agencies the County has a contract with.  In terms of diversity and inclusion she thinks of aspiration and there are intentional things that can be included to ensure there is inclusion.  With some of those things the County can be very specific in a contract but from a monitoring standpoint it is incumbent on the departments that are overseeing those contracts to ensure that the agency or vendor is following through according to the guidelines in the contract.   Ms. Younger spoke of the overarching monitoring that has been mentioned and said if it is something that is not explicit in a contract such as a performance measurement there is not a mechanism currently in place that could actually do that. She said this would be difficult unless what is going to be monitored is more clearly defined.

 

              Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said her recollection of past discussions was that the Committee was stuck on how to deal with the diversity and inclusion piece of it and determining what the expectation of diversity and inclusion is going in and coming out.  The County has a Diversity and Inclusion statement that contains language on what it expects those it contracts with to do. Ms. Younger said a lot of the money received from the State has a MWBE requirement.  Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said this year the WDIC sponsored training by the Chamber of Commerce for businesses to understand and me MWBE requirements and to begin developing policies around it.  Mr. Brown will provide a list of very good questions he found when recently working on a funding proposal application.

Search Committees composition - community representative recommendation

              Mrs. McBean-Clairborne invited any person who is interested in serving on the Committee to complete an application and submit to the Legislature.

 

              In response to a question by Mr. Roberts, it was stated that there has been a lot of work done relating to ADA.  Ms. Younger stated that each department has a Title VI representative and information is available on the County Administration webpage under Compliance.   Mr. Rusk stated that the Office of Human Rights has developed an ADA training that is available to all County departments.  Mr. Roberts suggested bringing in the Finger Lakes Independence Center into discussion as a resource.   Mrs. McBean-Clairborne noted the Committee continues to want to see ADA audits performed.

Adjournment

              The meeting adjourned at 5:03 p.m.