The City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night — Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin cast the lone dissenting vote — to remove a ban on hiring anyone with a felony. At the same time, the board set up a committee to establish rules that would consider the type of job applied for, the type of felony, how long ago the crime was committed and other factors as part of a hiring process.
A recommendation is due in two weeks.
City attorney Jeff Turnage recommended the council remove the outright ban immediately because the city could face a lawsuit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency advised last year that an absolute ban on hiring felons could negatively impact minorities who have a much higher conviction rate than whites.
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box worried that during the next two weeks the city might hire a convicted felon with no guidelines in place but Mayor Robert Smith assured him and other council members that wouldn’t happen.
Gavin questioned whether the city could face legal action down the road if it hired a felon and the person then committed another crime on the city’s watch. Turnage said that was a possibility.
“It’s a razor’s edge,” Turnage said of the quandary in which the two positions put the city.