Blackburn, Howard reach an agreement


Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.

Gainesville City Manager Russ Blackburn and Equal Opportunity Director Cecil Howard have reached an agreement that restores Howard’s ability to approve or reject a form generated in the city’s hiring and promotion processes.

The two reached an agreement Tuesday after a “very productive” meeting, Howard wrote in an email to commissioners.

“Cecil and I talked,” Blackburn said. “I conveyed to him my concerns. He conveyed to me his concerns. I think we both agreed we are trying to achieve the right thing ... I think we have a good plan moving forward.”

Their difference of opinion came in the wake of the promotion of a district fire chief late last year over the objections of Howard. Citing a lack of diversity in the department's upper ranks, Howard would not sign off on a Personnel Requisition Action Form for the position. That form initiates a hiring process and goes through a series of department heads to ensure, among other things, that a position is budgeted and authorized to be filled.

The Office of Equal Opportunity reviews to see that a recruitment plan is in place to make sure a diverse pool of applicants is considered.

In the case of Gainesville Fire Rescue, Howard said diversity hiring efforts were focused at the entry-level positions and that recruitment practices for mid- and upper-management were insufficient.

In the months after the promotion within the fire department, Blackburn removed the equal opportunity director from the list of staff leaders who sign off on the hiring forms in question.

On Wednesday, Blackburn said the Human Resources Department began to use the forms years ago, before he or Howard worked for the city. He said it was an administrative decision under his purview to remove the equal opportunity director from the list of staff who sign off on the forms.

Blackburn said his concern was that the rejection of the form by the equal opportunity director slowed down the process for advertising or filling a position.

In an email to the Human Resources Department last week, Howard said his office had been “kicked out of” the process for approving hiring requisition forms -- and that, in his mind, violated the city's policies because he no longer could ensure that a hiring process followed equal employment laws.

In the email, Howard said he planned to take the issue to the City Commission.

On June 13, Mayor Ed Braddy sent out a news release to announce his intention to have the commission address the issue at Thursday’s meeting.

Braddy said his concern was not who was ultimately hired but that one charter officer “has impacted the ability of another charter officer to carry out his duties.”

The city manager and the equal opportunity director are among the six city charter officers who are hired by and report directly to the City Commission.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top