Councilors to Hear Diversity Panel Findings, Including Suggestion to Hire ‘Diversity Officer’

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The public has opportunities to shape policy this week as various Haverhill boards meet. In the interest of transparency in government, WHAV provides this list of upcoming meetings every week.

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Early last summer, Haverhill’s mayor declared racism a public health emergency and, now, the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion concludes “the city has failed to put in place a diverse and inclusive hiring process.”

The Committee, appointed by Mayor James J. Fiorentini, reports its findings to the City Council Tuesday night at the request of Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Councilor John A. Michitson.

“There is a need to create a position ‘Diversity officer’ to look at all hiring practices for city government jobs, private contractors, school department positions, including educators (growing diverse student population),” reads an excerpt provided in a press release by Fiorentini Friday. The mayor is known for issuing press releases—seen by some as a form of pre-emptive strike—when city councilors schedule controversial topics.

The Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, chaired by Rev. Kenneth Young of Calvary Baptist Church, was named in the weeks following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn. Haverhill’s committee was to “review and make recommendations about the Haverhill Police Department’s use of force policy as well as the makeup and diversity of city boards, commissions and overall workforce including City Hall and the School Department.”

The mayor said he intends to work with school officials to ensure more minority candidates are considered for city and school jobs.

According to the press release, “the diversity panel unanimously agreed the police department’s use-of-force policy follows state recommendations and best practices and made no recommendations to change it.”

“We believe that here in Haverhill we have a very comprehensive and fair use-of force-policy,” Fiorentini said. “Many of the reforms that other communities are talking about have already been done here. For example, the neck restraint used on George Floyd is not allowed here. I am thankful that the committee recognized that our policy is fair.”

Concerning city recruiting, the committee found, “The Haverhill Public Schools lack the presence of African American/Black in supervisory positions. The Police Department and Fire Department combined have five or fewer African-American/Black persons. We found that there is some movement to hire bilingual persons. The City of Haverhill is doing a better job with outreach towards the Hispanic community, but it is still far away from satisfactory. Currently, the City of Haverhill does not reflect the Hispanic demographic in city jobs, Haverhill Public Schools, and police/fire services. There is not enough to move the needle to reflect the demographics in the City of Haverhill.”

According to WHAV’s news archives, the last time the city had a full-time, dedicated affirmative action coordinator was Guilmo Barrio, who was forced out in 1985.

Besides Young, the diversity task force included Nomsa Ncube, Lynda Brown, Jesus Ruiz, Katrina Everett, Rev. Mark Rivera, Noemi Custodia-Lora, Roxanna Patroni, Kathy Rurak, Ismael Mattias, Gina Faustin; Kallister Green-Byrd and Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro as a non-voting member.

The Haverhill City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m., in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers, room 202, Haverhill City Hall, 4 Summer St.

In other public meetings this week:

Wednesday, Oct. 28

Haverhill Commission on Disability Issues discusses means of helping to pay for holiday meals for disabled persons among other topics when it meets remotely Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 1:30 p.m.

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