activists naacp-file

Activists from the Caucus of African American Leaders and various local chapters of the NAACP congregated peacefully outside of city hall in downtown Ocean City in July address a pair of controversial incidents on the Boardwalk weeks earlier. This type of response has promoted city officials to look into hiring someone to address diversity and inclusion issues across the resort.

Ocean City council members are inching closer to adding a staff member to help the resort’s government become more equitable and diverse.

At a work session Tuesday, elected officials briefly addressed two options for the new position based on recommendations from Mayor Rick Meehan and City Manager Doug Miller and will spend the coming weeks deciding what qualifications they want the ideal applicant to have.

Officials began tossing around the idea of adding a position to address equity and inclusion issues over the summer, just weeks after the resort was thrown into the national spotlight over a pair of viral videos.

Cell phone footage showed White police officers using force against Black teens who had reportedly been vaping on the Boardwalk in two separate but similar incidents in June.

The events sparked outrage from countless people across the country who viewed the leaked clips. And while the entirety of the occurrences were not caught on camera, and the officers’ reports indicated that the teens had been adamantly noncompliant and resistant, the visible evidence prompted city officials to start a dialogue about improving internal diversity and equity practices.

Meehan met with Del. Sandy Bartlett (D-32) and representatives from the NAACP and Caucus of African American Leaders on July 19. After the meeting, he called on City Council members to look into hiring a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer to address disparities.

He asked Miller in a letter on Sept. 28 to rework the summary of duties and responsibilities for a professional development and training coordinator — an opening on the city’s payroll — to a diversity, inclusion and training coordinator.

“The world around us is changing and we are following behind when we need to lead,” Meehan said in the letter.“This would help us to become more sensitive to today’s society and help us build a better commitment to having a welcoming environment throughout our workforce and Ocean City.”

On Nov. 1, council members voted to start taking steps to hire a diversity, equity and inclusion officer to satisfy Meehan’s request. Miller also suggested that instead of seeking a specific diversity officer, the city should pursue a recruitment, retention and inclusion specialist.

He said that indvidual could assist the city better with efforts to recruit and retain employees while embracing and encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion values and goals.

Descriptions for both were included in council members’ agenda packets for Tuesday’s work session.

According to the descriptions, the positions are similar but have some differences when it comes to policy making authorities and internal efforts.

The diversity, equity and inclusion officer that Meehan suggested focuses on new administrative policies and procedures to promote equity and inclusion, and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the community.

The person in the position would help human resource officials develop, coordinate and present training related to various issues including unrecognized biases, racism, gender, xenophobia and misogyny. The officer would also lead the development and implementation of strategic equity plans, policies and procedures for equal business opportunity programs, among other duties.

The recruitment, retention and inclusion specialist, which Miller recommended, would focus more on working with internal officials to develop strategies to attract and keep a more diverse workforce.

Duties would include a detailed examination of the city’s current hiring efforts to create more diverse applicant pools, and looking into and improving practices for employee retention.

Miller said Tuesday that he looked at descriptions and qualifications for similar positions in municipalities in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio to come up with the details.

Council members did not comment on either of the positions descriptions Tuesday but agreed to look them over and discuss the details at a later date.

This story appears in the Jan. 14, 2022 print edition of the OC Today.

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