NAACP letter, EEOC complaints fuel request for equity analysis at City of Daytona Beach
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Alleged discrimination at the City of Daytona Beach continues to advance as a priority for African-American leadership, city employees and citizens.
On the heels of two officially filed EEOC complaints, Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County-Daytona Beach Branch of the NAACP addressed the commission during both the Oct. 21 and Nov. 4 scheduled meetings.
Among Slater’s most resonant statement was the following:
“The NAACP has been bombarded with complaints from employees from the city of Daytona Beach throughout the years and our legal redress committee has held meetings with the city manager and his administrators with very unsettling outcomes. Therefore it is with this great sense of responsibility that the organization speak out to what we believe are unfair practices in hiring and promotions within the city.”
The Daytona Times sent emails to Mayor Derrick Henry and each city commissioner prior to going to press on Nov. 4. Included were several queries regarding the city’s intent to respond to Slater’s allegations and her request for “a full review of minority employees including hiring practices, terminations, promotions and the like be investigated by this commission.”
Commissioner Paula Reed was the only officiant to respond with excerpts from a more extensively drafted email that she read verbatim at the Nov. 4 commission meeting. Reed stated that amidst technical challenges, she attempted to send the communication to fellow commissioners, the mayor and city manager.
“Our staff needs to resemble the city that we serve and these comments imply that there is an underserved representative of race and gender,” Reed’s letter stated. “As a manager, the commission oversees the management of maximum efficiencies for operations. It is our responsibility to not take these concerns lightly.”
Reed: ‘Do something’
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.’’
These words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preceded Reed’s letter. She publicly encouraged her fellow commissioners to take heed and acknowledge Slater’s consistent outreach to them as the single unified body able to initiate change.
“As Cynthia Slater continues to come before us, we may have a challenge,” said Reed. “She’s obviously presenting some type of controversy, and I think we have a responsibility as the managing body of the policy and issues that take place in the city to actually do something.’’
Petition and prove
Reed petitioned the commission to “research and examine” Slater’s contingencies to best determine the validity. Suggested was a study of hiring practices to address the issues.
“During our last commission meeting held on Oct. 21, Cynthia Slater head of the Volusia County Chapter of the NAACP stood before us and expressed concern about unequal, unfair and discriminatory hiring practices in our city,” Reed remarked.
“If they are true, let’s do something about them [allegations]. And if they are not true, let’s prove that it is not true.”
External equity analysis
A City of Daytona Beach equity analysis was suggested by Reed to leverage internal complaints.
Commonly used in the business arena, an external equity analysis delves into employees’ perceptions of the conditions and rewards of their employment, compared with those of the employees of other firms.
Reed suggested that the business model be implemented by the City of Daytona Beach.
“I thought about this further. I said, let’s hire an external evaluator to assess our hiring practices and procedures of current employees and applicants over the past 24 months to ensure that there is no bias in the process,” Reed noted.
“This would include demographics of all employees including salaries, statistics, and data regarding our applicant pool including who all applied, internal applicants and external applicants, current Human Resource expense data related to hiring.”
Examine city policy
In Lt. Larry Stoney’s EEOC complaint against the city fire department, a leading allegation was that the city was not adhering to its own policy with regard to posting positions, promotions and hiring.
An African-American, Stoney believes he was denied a promotion to fire chief based on his race and internal discord.
Reed believes the city needs to pursue an employee assessment to acquire an employee perception on employee advancement, hiring practices, and establish a policy dialogue with employees.
“Conduct an employee assessment. Who applied? Who was hired?” said Reed. “We’re the policymakers. Maybe there’s something wrong with our policies. Maybe they need to be more stringent or maybe they just need to be upheld. Conduct a roundtable discussion with management and the NAACP to determine the perception that’s on the inside,” Reed added.
At the close of Reed’s letter, Mayor Henry opened the floor to commissioners for comments and/or rebuttals. Commissioner Pam Woods spoke without haste.
“Before we spend money, we need to get an actual breakdown of employees in our city,” said Woods, who reiterated that it was something the city has both had in the past and once updated.
“We need a breakdown by race, gender, all minorities because when we’re talking about minorities, we’re talking about all minorities. We need our facts first and then let’s determine what we need to do next. Because let’s just say we get the information and it’s not factually disproportionate? Or, it’s worse than what we thought,” added Woods.
Woods’ stance was that the city should start with the aforementioned information and then decide hiring an outside evaluator.
Reed responded, “My only concern, and I’m amenable to that if that’s what I get tonight, but how can the person being questioned actually evaluate themselves. I think the data wouldn’t lie. The data should just be factual.”
“I am 100 percent in agreement with what I have read in your memorandum,” Henry told Reed.
“But I think we need to decide how we continue on because we need to have something concise and concrete about what we want.”
According to Henry, it was in his notes and his intent to address Slater’s comments that night. He further stated that he had received in the past week a few calls from people who do not work for the city saying that individuals (who are employed by the city) are unhappy, and that “people who work here are not allowed to speak with us.’’
Henry added, “People need to understand that they cannot just come and tell us what people are saying because they do not report to us. There are rules that prohibit that from transpiring.
“We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend as if nothing exists. It may or may not be anything, but it is our responsibility to get the facts first. I think you want to know how much data has changed over a time period to find out if there is some veracity to the claim by staff members that they are being harassed or discriminated against.’’