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Proposed changes to EEOC discrimination investigations concern residents, officials

Posted at 10:58 PM, Sep 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 13:33:49-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Currently, the city's Human Relations department investigates complaints for a person who feels they've experienced discriminated on the job. But city manager Peter Zanoni says it's actually a duplication of services.

"Today, the city provides a service that the state and federal government provides as well," Zanoni explained to KRIS 6 News.

That's why his budget proposal includes reducing the office's staff from six to three employees, and allowing the Fair Employment Practice Agency and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to handle those investigations. Zanoni says the remaining human-relations staff will still be there to point people with complaints in the right direction.

"We're still here and we're still going to continue if, in the private sector, somebody feels that they've been discriminated against," Zanoni said. "They can begin that grievance process here with the city."

The city manager talked about those changes with the Human Relations commission during its meeting on Thursday evening, and he was met with some opposition.

"Reducing the force of this department, therefore, reflects in my mind the importance that you attach to this function," said Commissioner Dr. Bilaye Benibo.

"Being here...makes it a little bit more comfortable for people to come and express their concerns," said Commissioner April Bassett, who previously worked in the Human Relations office.

Pastor Adam Carrington of Brooks AME Worship Center agreed with the commissioners. He was one of several residents who spoke during the meeting against the proposal.

"Should I have a grievance against a company, I don't have that face-to-face time to help me get through the...investigation process," Carrington told KRIS 6 News about the changes. "The city does need money. I'm sure everybody in the city understands that so he's doing a good job of trying to find that money for us. But at the same time, don't remove the human factor from it."

"That's my real issue."

However, Zanoni says the restructuring of the office doesn't diminish the city's commitment to the issue.

"I take equal employment, civil rights seriously," Zanoni said. "We want a diverse workforce in the city organization and we want that across the city."

The three positions that would be eliminated from the Human Relations office will be redirected to the new office that will address homelessness and affordable housing. They will not lose their jobs.

Zanoni said that two of them have already accepted other positions with the city, and he's still working to place the third employee.

The remaining human-relations staff would still investigate complaints concerning fair housing and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The city council is set to take a first vote on the proposed budget during a special meeting on Friday.