NAACP focuses on morale at city meeting

Branch leaders meet with Chisholm; Slater says commissioners should step up.

BY DAYTONA TIMES STAFF

Since October, Volusia County-Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater has been standing in front of Daytona Beach commissioners at their regular meetings, pressing them to look into the city’s hiring and promotional practices.

160128_dt_front01On Tuesday, she and other NAACP executive board members finally got the opportunity to sit down with City Manager Jim Chisholm and discuss the morale of the employees and culture inside the municipality.

“It was a start,” was Slater’s reply in a Wednesday interview with the Daytona Times. She noted that the meeting “should have come months ago.”

“I think we did accomplish some things,” Slater said. “There was dialogue.’’

The local NAACP branch has received numerous complaints from city employees who are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation, Slater repeatedly has stated.

She reiterated that statement at Tuesday’s meeting with Chisholm, which also was attended by Human Resources Manager James Sexton; Assistant City Manager Betty Goodman; and the Rev. L. Ronald Durham, the city’s newly-hired asset management director/special projects.

Slater cited complaints she has received from past employees as well as those still at the city.

‘Pandora’s box’ opened
She told the Times that when she addressed the commission in October about her concerns, “It was like a Pandora’s box had been opened.’’

She explained that at least three times a week, she receives calls relating to a former or current employee’s expressing unfair treatment. And those complaints have primarily come from people who are veteran employees – those with at least five years on the job.

The Daytona Times also has reported recently on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims filed against the city that charge racial discrimination. Those making claims said fear of losing their jobs has kept other employees silent.

Slater asks, “Why are employees so afraid to file grievances? Why are people not moving up? Why are people being hired from other areas instead of in Daytona Beach? Why is the city commission not doing more to address these issues?”

She inquires: “Who is that person (at City Hall) that people can really trust, to say my voice is going to be heard?’’

Outside evaluator
The commission voted 7-0 on Jan. 20 to direct Chisholm to seek information from research companies that conduct independent surveys, and to have that information available by the end of February.

Slater had asked the commission to consider an independent evaluator to address the morale of employees and the culture at the city.

On Wednesday, she said an employee satisfaction survey would be a start, but she wants to see the city commission do more.

“My hope is that the commissioners do their jobs and not allow these kinds of fuses to boil over,” she remarked.

She added that, “The city commissioners have to do better. The vast majority are sitting there and not doing anything, not stepping up to the plate.’’

Feb. 25 meeting
In another move, four department heads – from the police and fire departments, utilities and public works – are slated to attend the NAACP meeting on Feb. 25.

Last week, Slater emailed Chisholm inviting him and the city’s department heads to attend the Thursday, Jan. 28 meeting at the John H. Dickerson Center to give a brief talk about their departments and answer questions.

Chisholm said that none of the department heads would be available to attend the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m., because of  “several emergency projects’’ they’re working on.

Undeterred, Slater sent a second email extending the request to the heads of the police, fire, utilities and public works departments.

“The NAACP is reaching out to department heads in order to meet with and understand the processes of all departments. Our goal is to introduce all of the departments to the community in order to understand their operations,” she wrote back to Chisholm.

Diversity update
The NAACP’s meeting on Tuesday at the city came days after a diversity report update by Sexton. The update was culled from a new, 49-page report that gives a detailed workforce diversity analysis.

The new report shows that a City of Daytona Beach workforce diversity analysis reflects that 124 employees earn an annual base pay between $60,000 and $100,000.

Of that number, 21 percent of those are racial minorities – not limited to African-Americans – and 24 percent are female.

The analysis also shows that 25 workers earn an annual base pay greater than $100,000. Of that number, 24 percent are minorities and 24 percent are female.

At a December commission meeting, it was revealed that while the City of Daytona Beach’s Black population is 35.4 percent, only 18.7 percent of the municipality’s workforce is Black.

The city’s total minority workforce stands at 25 percent.

Public servants meet
On Monday, Slater and other area residents got a chance to hear from some city as well as county leaders on pressing issues during an event billed as a “conversation with public servants’’ at Hope Fellowship Church hosted by Bishop Derek Triplett.

Panelists included Chitwood; Daytona Beach Commissioner Patrick Henry; Pastor Derrick Harris, business owner and president of the Black Clergy Alliance; Volusia County School Board Chair Ida Wright; Volusia County Sheriff’s Department Major Jim Melady; and Volusia County Sheriff’s Department Captain Brian Bosco.

Questions for the panelists ranged from the city’s diversity to concerns about the Orange Avenue infrastructure project to homelessness.

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