Smith forms diversity advisory council

Panel intended to serve as voice for minorities in Baltimore County

March 08, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. plans to announce today the formation of a new Ethnic Diversity Advisory Council as part of what he says will be a high-profile effort to make county government more inclusive.

The commission replaces several existing councils and is designed to act as a central voice in advising the county on ethnic differences in health risks, public safety priorities, recreational program needs and other matters. It would also promote increased minority representation in county government, especially at the higher levels, Smith said.

Kali Mallik, an Indian-American from Timonium who runs several rehabilitation programs for the disabled, will be the chairman of the council.

He said he hopes the committee will act as a liaison to all ethnic groups in the county and act as a clearinghouse for resources for them. He said the group also will examine county policies and practices to make sure all minority groups are thoroughly integrated into the county government.

Last week, Smith's office released a report from a panel of top administration officials who spent the past six months studying minority hiring and contracting by the county government.

Smith announced its recommendations for increasing participation by minority contractors in December, but this report added several proposals for boosting the diversity of the county government work force.

Chief among the findings was that the county government should develop an equal employment opportunity plan to provide goals for every department and institute annual monitoring of compliance.

The commission suggested making the achievement of equal employment goals part of the basis for performance evaluations of county employees and department heads. It also suggested that county managers be required to attend training on effective recruitment, retention and management of a diverse work force.

According to the report, 18.1 percent of county government workers are racial minorities, whereas 26.5 percent of workers throughout the county are minorities.

In December, Smith announced that the county would conduct its first disparity study, an examination of how closely the level of county contracting with minority firms matches the number of such companies in the marketplace.

He also said the county's 10 percent goal for minority contracting would be extended beyond capital projects such as roads and bridges to other types of spending, such as office supply purchases, professional contracts and other services.

Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat who is the first African-American Baltimore County councilman, praised the executive for making these moves, saying they have been practiced for years in other jurisdictions and state agencies, and are overdue in Baltimore County.

"All we are doing is catching up with what people have been doing all along," he said. The county's last equal employment plan was crafted by then-County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen in 1990, and county officials acknowledge that most of its goals were never achieved.

Smith said his personnel director, Teresa Stokes-Hill, will be responsible for making sure the minority hiring and promotion goals are met. She is the first African-American to hold the position.

"Teresa Stokes-Hill has the background, the quality and the dynamism to follow through," Smith said. "I have no reservation about that."

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