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City discusses protection for employee sexual orientation in personnel regs

Posted: July 3, 2014 - 8:07pm  |  Updated: July 3, 2014 - 8:50pm

While an ordinance to amend personnel regulations for the City of Kenai was postponed for the second consecutive meeting, the council voted to include protections against sexual orientation based discrimination.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch asked that the council postpone the ordinance until Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom returned from vacation as he had questions on language revisions to the employee handbook. Council member Terry Bookey made an amendment to add sexual orientation to the list of equal opportunity employers.

“Sexual orientation is not a mandatory protected clause for discrimination and it should be,” he said. “I don’t think anybody working for the city should be in fear of position or harassment based on sexual preferences. They should be free to live their lives.”

Bookey said he is not aware of any discrimination among city staff and didn’t mean to imply that it was an issue.

While none of the other council members disagreed with the amendment, several spoke against making any kind of amendment to the ordinance that needed revision.

Council member Tim Navarre said he was ready to vote the ordinance down altogether and wait for the city manager to bring back a clean ordinance after working with the city attorney. Council member Brian Gabriel said no amendments should be made without the attorney present.

Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis said Bookey’s amendment simply adds sexual orientation to the ordinance and didn’t need to be discussed again when revisions are made at a later date.

“If we aren’t going to discriminate against (an individual’s) sex, (gender) then sexual orientation belongs in there as well,” Marquis said.

Bookey said the fact that the city was updating discrimination clauses in its employee handbook he felt it was the appropriate time to be proactive.

“This is a chance for this body here to make a point where their position is on a very important social topic,” he said.

The amendment passed 4-3 with no votes from Mayor Pat Porter, Navarre and Gabriel.

Porter said her vote was not against sexual orientation but in the manner of making an amendment without the attorney available to answer questions.

The ordinance will be brought back before the council at the August 20 meeting.

In other business, the council approved 11 ordinances and four resolutions. Among them the council officially appropriated five state capital grants that totaled $4.6 million dollars.

Legislative grants for a new south beach access road and new city equipment storage building totaled $1.9 million each. The ordinances also include $250,000 for improvements to the Kenai Recreation Center, $400,000 for a replacement fire engine, $200,000 for wastewater treatment plant upgrades and renovations design.

Porter said each of the projects were vital to the city and applauded the efforts of Kenai City Manager Rick Koch who worked with the local legislators to secure capital money.

Koch said he hopes some of the preliminary work for construction on the south beach access road will begin later this summer with the road completed next summer.

As for the new equipment storage facility, which will be built next to the new city shop, Koch said the city will put the whole $1.9 million into constructing as big a building as possible to store as much heavy equipment inside as possible.

“Parking our equipment inside will save the city a lot of money by being able to extend the life of our equipment fleet,” he said.

The council also passed an ordinance that changed how they approve the renewal of liquor licenses by moving it from action/approval to the consent agenda. Bookey sponsored the ordinance.

He said the city used to handle liquor licenses on the consent agenda and would like to see them do so again.

Among the four resolutions passed, the council approved the purchase of a new police car and awarded an agreement for the design of the wastewater treatment plant improvements.

 

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

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