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City to put focus on diversity, sets meeting to discuss activity downtown

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council plans to consider additions to its personnel policies aimed at bringing more diversity to the city’s workforce and volunteer boards and commissions.

Jan Derry and Don Spencer, representing the Morgantown Human Rights Commission, presented its DEI Plan — standing for diversity, equity and inclusion — to council during Tuesday’s committee of the whole session.

Spencer explained that the initiative has been in the works for three-plus years and aims to bring representation among employees and volunteers in line with that of the city’s overall population.

Among other things, the plan lays out a dozen “diversity management practices” including diversity training; recruiting, screening and hiring staff from diverse minorities; formal mentoring to minority employees; a minority internship program and an annual audit of the city’s diversity statistics.

“According to those involved in the census, by 2050 there will be no pronounced racial or ethnic majority in our nation, none,” Derry said. “So the HRC is bringing a plan to you to help the city thrive in this changing world. We’ve been a leader in this state and the HRC wants to keep us in that field, leading in this action.”

While council plans to take up a resolution and mission statement tied to the DEI Plan at next week’s regular meeting, it asked city staff for further consideration of some of the details that would become a new section of city code establishing diversity policy.

Some of the items council members questioned included the implementation of term limits for volunteer bodies, the broadcasting of volunteer interviews and the collection and presentation of potentially sensitive information for inclusion in an annual audit.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, a special session was scheduled for 9 a.m.- noon on Oct. 11 for an internal discussion between council and city staff — including Attorney Ryan Simonton and Police Chief Ed Preston — regarding some of the issues raised recently regarding homelessness, substance abuse and behavior in the city’s downtown business district.

The meeting will be open to the public and will be held in council chambers, but City Manager Paul Brake said he doesn’t anticipate there being public participation, at least in this initial session.

“The intent is that within our own organization we examine whatever measurable data has been collected, the ordinances that pertain to enforcement,” Brake said, explaining that the city isn’t looking to slap a band -aid on the problem, and expects to spend “several months” tackling this multi-faceted issue.

“This is to talk about the issue and really to define a work plan to move forward,” he said.

Council also moved the following on for future consideration:

  • The drafting of a resolution and a letter to Governor Jim Justice urging him to release state funds to offset federal cuts to the upcoming 2020 Census.
  • A policy that would provide city employees flexibility when dealing with issues related to adoption or foster care. The item is based on a similar policy in South Charleston and was proposed by Councilor Zack Cruze, who explained he’s been a foster parent for about four years.