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Arundel approves diversity audit over Leopold objections

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Despite opposition from Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, the County Council unanimously approved legislation Monday requiring the county government to audit its workforce in an effort to examine the county's hiring and retention of minority workers.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilman Daryl D. Jones, a Severn Democrat, requires county government to perform a detailed analysis of minorities working for the county by job type, gender and ethnicity; procurement policies relating to minority-owned businesses; and whether to expand of the investigatory and enforcement powers of the county's Human Relations Commission.

About 50 supporters of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Councilman Chris Trumbauer, an Annapolis Democrat, attended the meeting. The administration has until March to complete its report and deliver its findings to the council.

Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, first requested the information from the council in September and on Monday said she also requested the statistics from the Leopold administration — an assertion denied by several administration officials.

"Contrary to statements that were made … we have made a request to the Leopold administration," said Allsup. "This audit will allow the public to see how our tax dollars are used."

Several high-level Leopold staffers — including Andrea M. Fulton, the county's personnel officer and Frederick G. Schram, the director of the Office of Central Services — testified, detailing the administration's efforts at ensuring a diverse workforce.

County officials said they perform an analysis of workforce information, required by the federal government, which compares the county's workforce using community labor statistics from the U.S. Census with the government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission standards — information that could have simply been requested without council action.

The county's workforce is about 15.4 percent African-American, a figure that mirrors the county's black population, according to the most recent analysis, county officials said. Three African-Americans hold Cabinet-level positions in the county; one department head is Asian-American. Also, an African-American is director of the county's Workforce Development Corp.

"Overall, we're doing pretty well," said Fulton, who along with the other Leopold administration officials said they were unaware of a request from the NAACP for the information.

Schram said in the last seven years, the county had awarded $180 million in contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses. Additionally, he said, the county has provided technical assistance to provide guidance on the county's bidding process.

Alan R. Friedman, the director of government relations for Leopold, said the administration opposed the resolution, calling it "probably unnecessary."

"Everything that you are hearing tonight, by force of law, is public information," Friedman told the council.

Jones, who is headed to federal prison next month to serve five months for failing to file tax returns and whose future on the council is unclear, said the analysis would be of "great benefit" to see "where we are as a county."

Supporters of the resolution said it was important to look beyond the numbers and see not just how many minority employees make up the workforce, but what positions they hold.

Eugene Peterson, a member of the county school board, told the council that its Minority and Small Business Enterprise policy, which the school system adopted in September 2004, has resulted in $15.7 million in awards to minority businesses in sub-contracting.

"Each of you has a responsibility to ensure that the playing field in employment and recruitment is a level one," Peterson said.

Councilman John J. Grasso, a Republican from Glen Burnie, said previously that the resolution was "a waste of time."

At the council meeting, he apparently softened his stance, ultimately voting in favor of the audit.

"I'm really confused looking at this chart, I don't see Italians on here," said Grasso, who is Italian-American. "I always thought the Italians were somewhere between Hispanics and the blacks."

Yevola S. Peters, special assistant to the county executive for Human Relations & Minority Affairs and director of the Human Relations Commission, answered: "We consider Italians white."

Grasso added, "Look at my skin, a beautiful olive color."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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