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Whelchel Letter 102112

Whelchel Letter 102112

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Published by: Sergio Nahuel Candido on Oct 22, 2012
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· The Palm Beach Gaunty HUrnIJ,n Rights Councd, Inc.

is dedicated to ending discriminaJ:iun based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The Council promotes equality through education, advocacy, direct action, impad. luzgatzon and commun11y outreach ..

Please reply to:



400 North Flagler Drive, #1402 West Palm Beach, Florida 33401 (561) 358-0105 rand-hoch@usa.net October 21,2012 Mayor Susan Whelchel City Hall 201 West Palmetto Park Road Boca Raton, Florida 33432 Via e-mail to:swhelchel@ci.boca-raton.fl.us Re: Resolution No. 128-2012 and Resciding City of Boca Raton Ordinance 5161




Dear Mayor Whelchel: On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council ("PBCHRC"), I am writing to explain why Ordinance 5161 is a matter of civil rights, since it appears from today's article in the Sun-Sentinel, that you do not understand. Up until January 24, 2011, employees of the City of Boca Raton who felt they had been subjected to discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, familial status or marital status, had the right to bring the matter to the attention of the County's Office of Equal Opportunity, so that the matter could be investigated locally, promptly, and inexpensively. That changed on January 25, 2011, when you and your colleagues unanimously adopted Boca Raton Ordinance 5161. Since then, city employees seeking independent redress if they feel the are being subjected to discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, familial status or marital status, are limited to filing a Charge of Discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Miami or with the Florida Commission on Human Relations in Tallahassee. Clearly, the civil rights of the women and minorities working for the City of Boca Raton (which had been in place since 1995 were significantly restricted by the enactment of Ordinance 5161. Additionally, up until January 24, 2011, gay, lesbian and gender nonconforming employees of the City of Boca Raton had legal recourse if they felt the City had discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The City's lesbian and gay employees' civil rights had been in place since 2002, when the County amended its 1995 Equal Employment Ordinance to include "sexual orientation". The City's gender nonconforming employees' civil rights had been in place since 2007,when the County's Equal Employment Ordinance was amended to include "gender identity or expression".



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Mayor Susan Whelchel October 21,2012 :. Page two-

So, when you and Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie brought up Ordinance 5161 for consideration on January 25, 2011, and when the Council unanimously enacted it, the City, in fact, took away some of the civil rights women and minorities working for the City of Boca Raton, and all of the civil rights of the City's gay, lesbian and gender nonconforming employees. Over the past several weeks, PBCHRC has filed four public records requests in an attempt to ascertain how you and your colleagues became the only elected officials in Florida during this century (and no doubt longer) to vote to eliminate anyone's civil rights. As you know, since the City has refused to comply with the Florida Public Records Act, PBCHRC has retained legal counsel to institute a lawsuit if the records are not promptly forthcoming. Unless corrective action is taken, PBCHRC will get to the bottom of this. Until then, we are relying on records which we can obtain via the internet. I have reviewed the somewhat misleading January 4,2011 memorandum on Equal Employment Opportunity prepared by City Manager Leif Ahnell and Human Resources Director Mark Buckingham, which was included in the backup for the January 25, 2011 City Council Meeting at which Ordinance 5161 was enacted. The memorandum makes no reference to "sexual orientation" "gender identity" or "gender expression". Nor does it inform anyone that the civil rights offemale and minority employees would be curtailed. Therefore, it is possible that neither you nor your colleagues had any idea that by enacting the ordinance, you were completely eliminating the civil rights ofthe City's gay, lesbian and gender non-conforming employees, as well as restricting the rights of the City's female and minority employees. Giving the City Council the benefit of the doubt, if you and your colleagues had been led to believe that enacting Ordinance 5161 was merely a home rule issue, you now know that it is actually a civil rights issue. The Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council continues to urge the City Council to promptly rescind City of Boca Raton Ordinance 5161 so that all of the City's employees will be afforded the rights provided to the other men and women working in both private and public employment in Palm Beach County. On another matter, in an article entitled "Boca Raton officials compare LGBT equality to canine rights & bad hair" published in the South Florida Gay News, Boca Raton Assistant City Manager Mike Woika is quoted as saying, ""What's to keep other groups from wanting to be protected? How about me? I'm a pet lover. I think should be included in your anti-discrimination law. Someone who has dogs should not be discriminated against either." Putting it simply, Mr. Woika's comments are not only ignorant, but also hurtful. There is no longstanding history of employment discrimination against pet owners. In contrast, the history of employment discrimination against lesbians, gays and gender nonconforming individuals is extensive. In an attempt to address this workplace issue, thousands of businesses (including 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies) have enacted policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. More than a third (46 percent) of Fortune 500 companies also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression. Additionally a majority (58 percent) provide domestic partner health insurance benefits to their employees. In today's article in the Sun-Sentinel entitled "Home rule or bigotry? Boca opts out of expanded anti-discrimination policy", Mr. Woika toned down his language somewhat. However, he continued to marginalize LGBT people and the discrimination we face.


Mayor Susan Whelchel October 21,2012 Page three -

While PBCHRC is not calling for a public apology by Mr. Woika, it would seem appropriate for the City to take some disciplinary action in an attempt to assure the LGBT residents of Boca Raton - and our allies= _. that such callous and hurtful statements are not acceptable. Finally, PBCHRC renews our longstanding request that the City of Boca Raton amend its nondiscrimination policies to include "sexual orientation" as well as "gender identity or expression". Please be advised that long as Ordinance 5161 remains in effect, PBCHRC will move forward with our "Boca Bigots Run City Hall" campaign. Sincerely



(retired) President and Founder Palm Beach County Human Rights Council www.pbchrc.org

RH:r copies via e-mail to:

Board of Directors - PBCHRC Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie (shaynie@ci.boca-raton.fl.us) Council Member Anthony Majhess (amajhess@ci.boca-raton.fl.us) Council Member Constance J. Scott (cscott@ci.boca-raton.fl.us) Council Member Michael Mullaugh (mmullaugh@ci.boca-raton.fl.us)

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