Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $6,000 agreement with Black Lives Matter Bloomington for a day of anti-racism training next year.

The six-hour day of training by eight BLM facilitators is currently scheduled for Jan. 30, 2021. But that date could change by agreement between the commissioners and BLM.

Also at their Wednesday meeting, the commissioners approved revisions to the Monroe County personnel manual that, among other items, address the kind of training that will be provided by BLM. It won’t require elected officials to take BLM’s training.

Commissioners had postponed the revisions to the personnel manual from the previous week. Some wording in an initially proposed added section had caused county councilors to amend the 2021 salary ordinances. The councilors’ amendment tied the ordinances to the personnel manual as it stood, before any revisions were made.

The initial revision had read: “[A]ll elected officials and full time employees will be required to participate in a training…”

The version approved by commissioners on Wednesday reads: “[A]ll full time, non-law enforcement, employees, with the exception of those working under the authority of the Prosecutor and Board of Judges, will be required to participate in training.”

The annual salary ordinances always tie compensation to adherence to the requirements of the personnel policy manual. County councilors amended the salary ordinances this year because they did not want to sign off on a link to a document which had included content that was not yet decided. And they had concerns about the ability of some elected officials to require specific actions of other elected officials, beyond their statutorily required duties.

According to county attorney Jeff Cockerill, the training is designed for up to 20 elected officials.

At Wednesday’s meeting, president of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas said, “If we do have some spots left, we’re going to go ahead and offer this to some other elected officials in the community.” Thomas added, “We’ll just contact them by email, once we know how many spots we have left, so that we can fill the class.”

Cockerill told The Square Beacon he imagined spots would be offered first to township officials.

It’s assumed for now that the BLM anti-racism training will be conducted on a video-conferencing platform, and in that case an additional $250 will be charged for technical support.

At Wednesday’s meeting, commissioner Penny Githens wanted to know if the training meeting would be recorded for future use. County attorney Jeff Cockerill replied to Githens saying he was not aware of any plans to record the meeting.

The kind of training described in the agreement between the commissioners and BLM Bloomington does not appear to be subject to the requirements of Indiana’s Open Door Law (ODL), which applies to meetings of a quorum of elected officials. The ODL contains a provision that give an exception for “An orientation of members of the governing body on their role and responsibilities as public officials, but not for any other official action.”

Responding to a followup question from The Square Beacon, Cockerill said that he’d reached out to Indiana’s public access counselor, Luke Britt, and he thought the exemption based on “orientation” would apply in this case.

Monroe County personnel manual [.pdf of marked up document]

[Revised version] In an attempt to ensure the same message and quality of training, while adhering to the separation of powers found in state code, all full time, non-law enforcement, employees, with the exception of those working under the authority of the Prosecutor and Board of Judges, will be required to participate in training approved by the Board of Commissioners.

[Initial version] In an attempt to ensure the same message and quality of training, all elected officials and full time employees will be required to participate in a training approved by the Board of Commissioners, or the Prosecutor, or the Board of Judges.

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