City's hiring practices to be reviewed

January 31, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

City's hiring practices to be reviewed

Several Hagerstown officials agree the city's hiring practices and history need to be reviewed, but aren't as certain about how to address general concerns about discrimination in the community.

Those issues were raised at the end of Tuesday's regular session when some black community members told them of difficulties blacks have getting jobs in Washington County.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said a council work session will be scheduled by early March to review the city's hiring experiences, practices and procedures.


During that meeting, council members can decide whether they think a general meeting with the black community is needed, Zimmerman said.

When the council does talk about city hiring practices, the discussion needs to include racial and gender minority hiring, said Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein.

When it came to tackling concerns about discrimination in the hiring practices of private companies, some city officials weren't sure that was their territory.

"I'm not trying to dodge the issue. I just think they're on the wrong court," said Councilman William M. Breichner.

Approaching the council about the black community's concerns has raised awareness of the issue, Breichner said.

"We would hope that the businesses in the community would not discriminate," but that issue would be better addressed by state officials, he said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the city can't save the county from discrimination, but the city can set an example for private businesses by reviewing and improving the city's hiring practices.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he believes many blacks don't get jobs because of their color, although he isn't aware of any discrimination with the city's hiring practices.

But, Metzner said the more general issue of discrimination might be bettered addressed by a committee than by the council.


"I think we need to do a better job of recruiting qualified minorities and we're trying," said Eric Marburger, the city's personnel manager.

Marburger said he's always looking at creative recruiting methods, especially for women and racial minorities. He said he makes a point of recruiting minority job candidates whenever there is a vacancy.

City personnel staff have recruited at historically black colleges, advertised in newspapers targeted to minorities and sent job postings to neighborhood groups in the black community, Marburger said.

Stan Brown Jr., vice president of Brothers United Who Dare To Care, said the city needs to make sure those job announcements get out to the local black community.

Marburger said fire department officials have visited high schools to recruit minorities to become volunteer firefighters, which is the traditional route to becoming a paid firefighter in the city.


In the early 1990s, the council had a lengthy discussion about diversification because they had to replace about half of the city's department heads, Saum-Wicklein said.

The council ended up hiring all white men for those jobs, because the applicants most qualified happened to be white men, she said.

Saum-Wicklein said she could only remember one woman applicant and no black candidates that reached the council for final interviews.

Breichner said in his roughly 40 years with city government he remembers only one black department head, William Mason. Mason retired in 1990 after 11 years as personnel manager.

There have been at least five women department heads, Breichner said.

Neither Zimmerman nor Marburger have been involved in the hiring of any department heads because there haven't been any managerial vacancies since they were hired in 1994.

Zimmerman said he and Marburger would recruit, advertise and screen applicants for managerial positions, sending the most qualified to the council for final interviews.


Of the 446 full- and part-time permanent city employees the city had as of Jan. 20, 15 are racial minorities, Marburger said. Thirteen employees are black and two are Hispanic.

Washington County employs 22 minority workers, 14 of whom are black, county officials said. Minorities account for 3.5 percent of the county's 631 employees.

About 3.5 percent of the county's residents are minorities, excluding prison inmates.

The city received 788 applications and resumes for 15 vacancies advertised in 1997, Marburger said.

Of those, 207 applicants were women and 45 applicants declared themselves as racial minorities, Marburger said. Applicants don't always note whether they belong to a minority on their resume.

A breakdown based on race was not available, but Marburger said most of them were black.

Of the 21 people hired from the 15 ads, two were black males, four were white women and one was a Hispanic woman, he said.

One black man was hired as a laborer in the water department and the other was hired as a parking deck attendant, he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles