Debate continued over the status of the Dover Human Relations Commission, with the introduction of a proposal to change how the commission’s chair is selected.

    Debate continued over the status of the Dover Human Relations Commission, with the introduction of a proposal to change how the commission’s chair is selected.
   The proposal was unanimously tabled at a Dec. 8 Dover City Council committee meeting.
   Despite some initial confusion over past history, the ordinance amendment, proposed to the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee, would give the council president responsibility for selecting the commission’s chair, rather than being elected by the membership. Council President Kenneth Hogan and council members Sophia Russell and Thomas Leary sponsored the amendment.
   “And to be real honest about it, the issue is that most of the time commissions do quite well to pick a president, a chairman and everything works well,” Hogan said. “Unfortunately, the last two years, I don’t think it’s worked well.”
   He added that he’s had numerous discussions with various groups, council members and members of the community.

    When the commission was first started in 2002, former Mayor James Hutchison appointed the first chair. The commission itself, with council presidents just re-appointing members, decided subsequent chairs, said Councilwoman Beverly Williams.
   “I don’t think the president of council should be able to make that change,” said Councilman and committee member Reuben Salters, even though any change would still have to be approved by the full council.
   “It seems to me we’re putting the cart before the horse,” he added.
   He was hesitant to put the authority in the hands of the council president, and said if it had to be up to anyone, it should be the mayor.
   City Clerk Traci McDowell said the new proposal has been reviewed by the city solicitor, who has no problems with its legality.
   Williams pointed out other city commissions have had chairs appointed by the council president, with input from council and the commissions themselves.

    Salters said if the council president is involved deeply in the interviews that select the members of the commission and then can pick the chair, then he’s not sure that’s the best procedure.
   “I think the members of the [commission] should appoint their own chairperson. They know better than we do,” he said.

    Hogan said the council president’s selection would still have to be confirmed by the full city council, later adding that perhaps the other commissions should be looked at as well.

    “I’m not sure this is going to solve the problem, this may make it worse,” said Councilman Eugene Ruane, who is not a member of the committee. “The members of that commission have re-elected their chair … more than once, and may be disappointed in this approach.”

    Russell, who also was in the audience, said she doesn’t necessarily agree with that position.
   “Sometimes people when they are in leadership are placed there, sometimes because nobody wants to step up and take the leadership position,” she said, adding that this doesn’t mean the entire commission agrees with the current situation.
   Salters said since they’ve been discussing an individual, they might need to go into executive session. Councilman William McGlumphy added he didn’t think the matter should go to executive session, and moved to table it.
   Committee Chair Timothy Slavin said he would seek to see how the matter should be discussed.
In other business…

    The Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee also discussed benefit parity for non-bargaining city employees, and unanimously moved the matter on for a full council debate with no recommendation either way.

    The proposal calls for official approval on current benefit practices that have no official documentation as well as some enhanced and new benefits. City staff reported specifically on what the costs of implementation would be.

    Increasing vacations by three days would cost approximately $3,800 in the budget from vacation sellback, but have nearly $55,000 in lost productivity; increasing some terminal leave and sick sellback upon retirement would cost approximately $220. New benefits of vacation bonus for good attendance, an education incentive program and professional engineer licensure incentive program could cost approximately $18,173 to $64,762, depending how many employees take advantage of them.

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