Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg mandates for city workers to stem racial tensions

ST. PETERSBURG — A consultant began conducting sensitivity training classes for employees in the city's stormwater and water departments this week, following recent reports of racial tension.

From now to October, the city plans to hold 16 such sessions to ensure all employees, from directors down, complete a four-hour course called "Unique Like You!"

Hundreds of staffers across the two departments will get the training, which costs the city $500 per class, said Chris Guella, director of human resources.

"At this point it does not include administrators or mayor's staff," Guella said. "We are looking at a much broader, citywide effort that will be a second phase."

The training comes after articles in the Tampa Bay Times chronicled racial tension among city employees, most noticeably in the stormwater department, where a white supervisor spray-painted the letters KKK on the back of a black man's work vest, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

Since then, other black city workers have come forward with frustrations about the work environment and discrimination they feel is happening.

After the Times' story about the "KKK incident," the city said it would hold the diversity classes as well as conduct a cultural climate study, which local union officials have long sought.

Guella said details about the climate study are still being discussed.

Union officials have been pressing the city for months about the need to conduct a survey of the entire workforce to see where things stand, not just one or two departments.

Guella said it looks like that may happen, but nothing is final. The city would send out a request for proposals to find a firm to do the work and coordinate when it could be done.

"That's going to require a lot of logistics," Guella said.

The city has turned to Tampa poet James Tokley, who has run a human resources training firm since the 1990s, to conduct the sensitivity classes. He's not new to St. Petersburg. He teaches classes to city workers several times each year, Guella said.

Tokley's course, according to curriculum materials, aims to "help establish and work toward maintaining a climate of openness and respect, where individuals who bring their own traditions, beliefs, values, lifestyles, and fears, may congregate to create a product or accomplish a task."

Guella said officials have decided to provide the class to anyone who hasn't taken it in the past three months. That means some people who had the class before will take it again.

"It's not going to be a problem that they hear it twice," Guella said.

Employees also recently got a reminder of the new city vision that Mayor Rick Kriseman has emphasized since taking office.

In a memo to all workers dated Aug. 21, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin told employees that one of chief values of that vision is diversity and inclusiveness.

"Recent media coverage regarding race relations among our team presents an opportunity for us to affirm our commitment to a culture of inclusivity where everybody is treated with dignity and respect," Tomalin wrote.

Anyone who works at the city is accountable for that, Tomalin said.

"The Mayor's expectations are clear. Discrimination against any person for any reason is unacceptable," she wrote. "The City's policies have long reflected zero tolerance for discrimination. The Mayor is committed to the assurance that all of our practices deliver on that promise."

Contact Kameel Stanley at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes.

Comments
Navy files criminal charges in connection with deadly ship collisions, including negligent homicide

Navy files criminal charges in connection with deadly ship collisions, including negligent homicide

Washington PostFive Navy officers involved in ship collisions that killed a combined 17 sailors last year will face a variety of criminal charges, including negligent homicide, the service announced Tuesday night.The individuals include Cmdr. Bryce B...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 16

Tuesdayís scoreboardGirls soccerLennard 8, Blake 0Osceola 1, Clearwater Central Cath. 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 4, Bishop McLaughlin 0
Updated: 2 hours ago
Career Q&A: What to do when your boss is stealing

Career Q&A: What to do when your boss is stealing

Q: I strongly suspect that my boss is stealing from our employer. As the property manager for this apartment complex, she handles all payments, deposits and other financial matters.A few weeks ago, I accidentally discovered some suspicious discrepanc...
Updated: 3 hours ago

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG ó A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Women speak out on abuse by Nassar; Nationís first Sikh attorney general confirmed; more in U.S. news

Women speak out on abuse by Nassar; Nationís first Sikh attorney general confirmed; more in U.S. news

Updated: 5 hours ago
In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one

Separate accreditation has long been a point of pride and a stamp of independence for the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee branches of the University of South Florida.Graduates of those schools frame diplomas bearing the name of their own universi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Video captures basketball game between kids, St. Petersburg officers

Video captures basketball game between kids, St. Petersburg officers

ST. PETERSBURG ó Teamwork wins games, they say. And basketball can bridge gaps.Thatís what makes the Facebook video of three St. Petersburg police officers playing a game of pickup in the street against three kids so compelling. The officers, who wer...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

Top Hillsborough teaching honor goes to a Lewis Elementary educator

TAMPA ó The Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year is a self-described "busy, busy bee" who never tires of exploring new ways to help students learn, even if she has to be creative.At 56, Bonnie Bresnyan also is a mentor for the next generation of s...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

PORT RICHEY ó The casino boat operator whose shuttle caught fire Sunday, leaving one passenger dead, says it does not know what could have caused the blaze.But federal records show the company, now called Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, had another boat...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Did everyone enjoy the cool, sunny weather? Because itís over now.Itís about to get very chilly, Tampa Bay. A rush of arctic air is headed our way, bringing another cold spell. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 60s on Wednesday, but overnight t...
Updated: 6 hours ago