Roeland Park council prepares for anti-discrimination ordinance implementation

City_of_Roeland_Park

The much debated anti-discrimination ordinance passed by Roeland Park this summer isn’t scheduled to take effect until Jan. 1, but the city is working on preparations to implement it. Those discussions are taking place against a backdrop of a petition initiative to call for a city-wide vote on the repeal of the ordinance.

Earlier this week, the city council, meeting as a committee, agreed to move forward to the final approval stage requests for applications for the three jobs needed to handle a potential claim under the ordinance: mediation services, a hearing officer and an investigator.

The ordinance requires mediation as a first step in any discrimination claim that is filed in Roeland Park. If mediation fails, then the claim will be investigated and potentially presented to a hearing officer for resolution. Each of the three services will be contracted out on a per hour basis and the city would pay only for actual work on a case.

The issue of the city’s financial liability arising from a discrimination case did generate considerable discussion among the council, though. In the ordinance, the cost of mediation services is to be split between the parties. If mediation fails, triggering an investigation and a hearing, the hearing officer can assign costs.

However, the possibility that a hearing might not be recommended after an investigation, led to discussion about the costs of the investigator accruing to the city. Several council members said it was not the intent to have the city incur any costs under the ordinance. An amendment to the ordinance could close that gap in payment coverage.

A question about how the ordinance might affect senior discounts was dispatched with quickly when the city attorney said the new law does not address age, so it would have no effect.