Heights council changes harassment policy, talks election

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — The city council Nov. 12 approved new language for the city’s policy regarding harassment in the workplace, thanked residents for voting in the general election and made plans to schedule a study session to discuss future goals for the city.

The “Policy Prohibiting Unlawful Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation” was written by Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke and proposed to supersede two policies currently in place by the city regarding employee conduct and sexual harassment.

Miotke said the existing policies were “deficient in many ways” and that a new one was needed to address those deficiencies.

In an outline of the policy changes, he said the new policy would have several advantages over the old ones, including prohibiting harassment or discrimination based on various criteria protected under federal and state law, a more accurate description of sexual harassment and language clearly banning unlawful retaliation.

The new policy also will address how incidents are investigated, as it will become consistent with state law in allowing the city to initiate investigations if it receives credible information.

Miotke said it was time to update the policy because the ones in place were written 20 years earlier.

“The policy has been drafted in light of the real purpose of such policies, namely to stop and prevent all forms of unlawful harassment, discrimination and retaliation,” Miotke said. “The existing policies do not appear to have been drafted with this goal in mind.”

The new policy went into effect immediately after beng unanimously approved 6-0 by the council. Councilman Ned Apigian was absent from the meeting.

After concluding the scheduled business of the meeting, two council members and the city clerk thanked the residents of the city for participating in the recent general election.

Council President Kenneth Baron thanked all the candidates who ran for office, which included two for mayor and five for four open seats on the city council. The city clerk and treasurer ran unopposed.

“It’s always nice when there are people who are interested in running and trying to make things better in the city,” Baron said.

Councilman Joseph Kosinski also thanked the community for voting and said said there were no losers in any election.

“Any candidate name or issue included on a ballot will garner votes because all candidates have a following of voters in the community,” Kosinski said. “They inspire community members to come out and place their votes in the ballot box and get involved with the democratic process.”

Kosinski added that having over 7,000 of the city’s 38,000 voters participate in the election was an “accomplishment” because it showed that residents have an interest in their candidates and what they stand for.

City Clerk Walter Prusiewicz thanked all of the workers who helped out at the polls.

“We had 140 workers at the polls in the 27 districts and I’m really proud of the work that they did,” Prusiewicz said. “I think we were very successful considering this was the first time using electronic poll books.”

Prusiewicz also apologized for any trouble residents had at the polls and said the city always is willing to hear ideas on now to improve the voting experience for residents.

Also at the meeting, Councilman Thomas Berry asked Baron to set a day aside that the council could meet on to discuss goals for 2014.

“I’d like to have an open meeting where council members can talk and present their ideas on things we’d like to get accomplished during the year aside from the city budget,” Berry said. “If we don’t have goals for the year I don’t think we can set a constructive agenda.”

Baron agreed, as did Mayor Dan Paletko, who said he was organizing a brainstorming session with department heads for 2014 and that a bigger meeting could be put together to include the council so that issues facing the city could be discussed collectively.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)