NAACP seeks clearer wording on Pittsfield's affirmative action officer position


PITTSFIELD — The Affirmative Action Advisory Committee was asked this week by the Berkshire chapter of the NAACP to develop a more precise definition of the affirmative action officer position.

Attorney Ethan Klepetar, representing the organization, noted that the committee is designated as having authority to revise the city's Affirmative Action Policy and Plan, with the approval of the mayor and City Council. He said of wording referring to the officer position, "We think it needs clarity."

He said that since the 38-page policy and plan was reactivated along with a new advisory committee in 2013 — after being dormant since the late 1990s — the city and school personnel directors have essentially been filling the affirmative action officer's role.

The mayor also was considered ultimately responsible for implementation of the plan's goals of increasing the recruitment and hiring of minority job applicants, he said.

Klepetar said that among suggestions voiced have been that a new employee be hired for the affirmative action officer role, or that someone else in city government other than a personnel director should assume the post.

Harry Hayes, the school system's human resources director, agreed that "it is absolutely right that [the plan] lacks clarity," and added that a mayor appears to have authority to designate someone else to be the affirmative action officer.

City Personnel Department Director Michael Taylor has been acting in a similar role concerning non-school city departments.

Committee member Lenny Kates said there has been some sentiment that wording be added that the officer "not be the personnel director."

Klepetar said he wasn't seeking to specify who or which city position should fill the role, "because I am not sure you would want to tell the mayor what to do." The committee could always, however, make recommendations concerning the policy and plan and how it is implemented, he said.

The mayor will be the official who is ultimately responsible for the policy and plan, he said, and also the official who can be held responsible by the voters.

Mayor Linda M. Tyer, who attended the group's Wednesday meeting, said she first wanted to "reaffirm my commitment to this policy and to the committee," and to the effectiveness of the affirmative action officer's role. She said that she also wanted to "understand what is the reluctance to having the personnel director" serve in the post, which she said is the norm in other communities with similar policies.

Will Singleton, who represents the NAACP on the 12-member advisory committee, said concern has been voiced about "potential conflicts" that could develop if a personnel director involved in hiring employees and fielding job-related complaints also could be called upon to oversee a complaint process.

Tyer said that, should a complaint be lodged against the personnel director/affirmative action officer, she would have the ability to designate another official to hear the complaint.

Klepetar said that for those and other situations that might arise, he would like to ensure there is no language in the plan that names a specific official for those duties, leaving the mayor with flexibility to make that determination.

Committee Chairwoman Mary McGinnis suggested that a subcommittee of the group be formed to study the issue and make a recommendation at a September meeting, and that was approved.

Named to the study group were McGinnis, Hayes, Kates, Singleton and Klepetar.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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