PITTSFIELD -- The city has created an Affirmative Action Advisory Committee as part of an effort to promote diversity in hiring, but one important organization is not on board -- the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP.
The committee, which grew from efforts this year to revitalize the city's dormant 20-year-old affirmative action policy and plan, has a dozen members, according to Mary McGinnis, the city's director of administrative services. She said the first committee meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 16 in Room 203 at City Hall.
NAACP Chapter President Will Singleton prompted the policy overhaul this spring when he asked city officials whether Pittsfield had an affirmative action policy in place. It did, one dating to 1993, but it took some time for officials to find a copy. That 37-page policy and plan has been under review for several months by an initial steering committee for possible revisions and updates, McGinnis said.
Part of the original affirmative action policy called for creation of a standing committee to review hiring issues and meet on a regular basis. The make-up of that group has evolved in meetings since the summer, McGinnis said, and the NAACP had been expected to name a representative.
But that has not happened.
"The members have voted not to talk about [the ongoing city effort]," Singleton said Monday. "But we will have something to say in the near future. Right now, we are monitoring things and seeing what develops."
Singleton confirmed that the chapter "is considering other options" in reaction to what many, including city officials, have identified as a low percentage of African-Americans in city and Pittsfield school positions. He said he could not comment further on options that have been discussed or on why the NAACP hasn't named a representative to the advisory committee.
A news conference in the near future is possible, Singleton said.
Among options reportedly discussed by chapter members at meetings is a discrimination complaint against the city.
Current members of the advisory committee are Affirmative Action Officer and city Personnel Director John DeAngelo; Hispanic representative Eleanore Velez, the coordinator of the Multicultural Center at Berkshire Community College; Major James Fletcher of the Salvation Army, the citizen representative; Peter White, representing the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Jeff Hunt of Berkshire Stonewall Coalition, representing the LGBTQ community; schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless; Warren Dews, vice president of audience development, sales and marketing at New England Newspapers Inc., which includes The Berkshire Eagle, representing the faith-based community; Bryan House of Berkshire Community Action Coalition; Dan Swift, representing veterans, and citizen consultant, Cecelia Rock, former Rutgers University and New York University Medical Center Affirmative Action Officer.
McGinnis said the committee also hopes to get a union representative to serve.
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