The Richmond Register

Local News

February 19, 2014

Special meeting set to discuss fairness ordinance

Council approves Phase 2 of retirement community plan

BEREA — Berea’s city council will devote two hours before its next meeting to discuss proposed changes to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Near the end of Tuesday’s council work session, a draft of the new ordinance was distributed to members, and council member Diane Kerby presented a summary of the changes. They prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on gender identity, sexual orientation and familial status. Protected categories now include race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and physical disability.

If adopted, the ordinance also would give the Berea Human Rights Commission authority to appoint investigators and officers who would conduct enforcement hearings.

HRC Member Jon Rogers said the new language was borrowed from similar ordinances in other cities as well as from state law. Proposed enforcement policies were chosen after examining methods used in other cities and considering what would work best for Berea.

Several council members had questions about the proposal, most notably, how much money the HRC would need if the changes are adopted. The proposal calls for investigator and hearing officers to be contracted on an as-needed basis. But the commission could incur legal fees if a matter was not solved through mediation.

Rogers said the prospect of complaint going to an enforcement hearing, statistically, is very low. A member of the state HRC told him a city of Berea’s size would likely average about one hearing a year, he said.

The amount of money would be difficult to estimate, Kerby said, but council member Ronnie Terrill suggested it could be as much as $30,000 a year.

Council members Virgil Burnside and Violet Farmer said they needed more time to study the ordinance and determine how the changes affect the HRC’s relationship with the city.

To discuss the ordinance in depth, the council scheduled a special work session beginning 4:30 p.m. March 4. The work session will take place in the council chambers of the Police and Municipal Building at 304 Chestnut St.

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