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by Mary Shelton
Monday, May. 27, 2002 at 11:05 AM
According to the last three EEO reports the city of Riverside filed, no gains have been made in terms of the city's hiring and employment of African-Americans. Ironic, in a city that erected a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. outside its City Hall.
No Gains for Blacks in City Jobs
By Mary Shelton
RIVERSIDE -- African-American employees comprise 22 percent of Riverside's part-time work force but fill only 7 percent of the city's full-time positions, according to the city's Equal Employment Opportunity report.
In one city division there are no African-Americans at all, even though decisions made by its departments impact the lives of residents, including African-Americans.
According to the 2001 report, the Community Development Division has no African-American employees though two had been listed in a prior EEO report the city filed in 1999. This disturbing trend continues as this division hired six employees in the past two years, but none were African-American.
The Community Development Division serves as the umbrella for several departments, including Development, Redevelopment, Community Development and Building and Planning, according to Theresa McAllister from the city's Human Resources Department.
The lack of African-American employees in this division has raised eyebrows, given that controversy has risen with the city's Redevelopment Agency and how it conducts business with people of color. In addition, many of the projects created and implemented by the Community Development Department impact communties that are predominantly Latino and African-American in Riverside.
The city recently lost a motion to fully dismiss a case in U.S. District Court against the Redevelopment Agency, filed by Leonard Walker who formally owned a restaurant near downtown. After delaying his decision on the motion for nearly a year, Judge Robert Timlin wrote that his court had jurisdiction over Walker's equal protection and due process claims in his lawsuit to the extent that the city and Redevelopment Agency allegedly denied relocation assistance to him, but awarded assistance to other similarly situated businesses.
Businesses owned by people of color, including Gram's Barbeque and the Tamale Factory, have received assistance from the Redevelopment Agency but usually were forced to relocate, so that they could be replaced by White-owned businesses, including Mario's Place and the University of California, Riverside Fine Arts Institution.
Several other city divisions have poor numbers when it comes to hiring and employing African-Americans.
Riverside's Utility and Transportation Division hired only one African-American in the past five years, out of a total of 38 employees, according to the last two EEO reports issued in 1999 and 2001. Currently, African-Americans comprise only 4 percent of that workforce.
In most departments, the representation of African-Americans is much higher in part-time positions than in full-time. In the Financial Administration Division, African-Americans filled 27 percent of the part-time positions, opposed to 8 percent of full-time positions. In the Streets and Highways' Division, African-Americans comprised 36 percent of the part-time workforce, and filled only 10 percent of the full-time positions. Natural Resources has a part-time work force that is 21 percent African-American, but of its full time employees, only 8 percent are African-American.
According to Human Resources, part-time positions, which are offered in every department, include those that range from 15-29 hours a week and offer no benefits. Some of them lead to full time positions, but many do not.
A representative from the city's Finance Department said he was surprised that listings for part-time positions were included only in the 2001 report, adding that part-time positions had been around for a while. The Human Resources Department did not return phone messages in regards to this issue.
The city's protective services also had poor records when it came to hiring African-American employees including police officers and fire fighters.
According to the last three EEO reports, the city has hired only two African-Americans in its fire department during the past six years, although 59 positions were filled during that time.
In the past two years, the department hired one African-American, 34 Whites, five Hispanics and two Asian-Americans according to the 2001 report.
The police department hired no African-American officers between 1996 and April 2000, according to EEO reports, even though during this time period, it hired at least three of the white officers who shot Tyisha Miller to death in 1998, along with their supervisor, Sgt. Gregory Preece and former officer Bill Rhetts who was investigated by internal affairs for making racial comments about Miller. None of these officers remain with the department, although the five officers connected with the shooting are fighting their terminations in court. The city offered disability retirements to former officers Wayne Stewart and Michael Alagna, after their firings were reversed by an arbitrator last year. Rhetts received an industrial retirement from the city in May 2000.
Unlike most of the city's departments, the police department has made marginal gains in the hiring of African-Americans, due to recruiting efforts, after the beleaguered agency became the subject of federal and state investigations after the Miller shooting.
Since 2000, the department has hired at least two African-American men and one woman, although the department was unable to provide the current racial and gender breakdown of its department when requested.
This department is also the only law enforcement agency out of eight in Riverside and San Bernardino counties that has not provided statistics on the racial and gender breakdown of sworn officers by rank, despite numerous requests for that information.
Current Police Chief Russ Leach has said on several occasions that he is reluctant to provide this information due to fear that any mention of race and the promotion process would lead to lawsuits filed against the department by white officers.
Only one division in the city employs a significantly higher percentage of African-Americans than is represented in the city's population. The city's Housing Division currently has the highest proportion of full-time African-American employees, who constitute 20 percent of that work force, though its two highest salary earners are white employees and they hired no African-American employees last year.
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