The city of Hinesville has decided to eliminate the question on city employment applications that asks about criminal convictions. City-council members agreed with a motion made by Mayor Jim Thomas during Thursday’s meeting to authorize the city personnel office to “ban the box” that some have argued discriminates against felons who’ve completed their prison sentence.
“This is a new policy,” Thomas told the council, and then turned to City Attorney Linnie Darden, confirming with him that the city has no policy or ordinance that requires the question’s presence on employment applications. “What we’re doing is creating a policy that allows for removal of a line item on an employee application form.”
The mayor asked Darden if it would be better to establish a new policy or ask the council to approve a resolution giving Darden permission to write a new ordinance for the city. Thomas presented his motion as an information item, not something the council needed to take official action on Thursday evening.
Darden said it didn’t make any difference. Since there currently is no policy for or against “the box,” Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier suggested they propose and approve a policy.
The mayor and other council members agreed. The motion was made, seconded and then passed. The council previously heard from Liston Singletary in November. Singletary is a leading proponent of the local “ban the box” campaign.
Singletary also spoke with the Liberty County Commission in November. He said the question about criminal convictions no longer is relevant because they already have served out their sentences. After the second time he talked to commissioners, County Administrator Joey Brown pointed out that the county still would conduct background checks on any perspective employee before offering him or her a job.
Earlier this month, the Coastal Courier conducted an informal poll about the prior-convictions question, asking readers if they thought the county and city should join the “ban the box” campaign. The poll results were 23 in favor and 89 opposed.
Other business was delayed during Thursday’s meeting when a city employee suddenly became seriously ill. She was immediately treated by Councilman Kenneth Shaw, an emergency medical technician, and Hinesville Fire Department Chief Lamar Cook.
The meeting was temporarily adjourned and everyone was asked to wait outside in the lobby until paramedics could arrive and tend to the sick woman. According to city receptionist Deridra Weeks, the woman was taken to Liberty Regional Medical Center, where she was treated for a respiratory infection and later released.
The first action item on the agenda was a review and approval of the design review board’s recommendation for the new Live Oak Library. The 20,000-square-foot structure would be one-story with a maximum height of 30 feet and have an auditorium capable of seating up to 125 people.
After some flood-zone questions were raised about the final plat for Phase IIA at the Preserve at Cinder Hill, the council agreed to table the action item until the January meeting.
The council agreed to renew alcoholic-beverage licenses for off-premises consumption for six businesses. They also approved six alcohol-license renewals for on-premise consumption, following nearly a half hour of discussion about one of the businesses applying for renewal. Council members expressed concerns about Island Vybez because the owner had divided its hours of operation for its restaurant and bar.
The owner, Aaron White, spoke to the council and answered questions from council members about his business. Thomas had to curtail the questions and re-direct the discussion to whether the business owner was in compliance for a license.
“We have received no proof that your percentage of alcohol sales exceeds your percentage of food sales,” Thomas said. “Therefore, you are in compliance. I think we should re-issue the license, but you need to be aware the percentage of food sales must exceed the percentage of alcohol sales.”
Other alcohol-related issues included approval for a new alcoholic-beverage license for Chirag Patel, owner of the Fast Stop at 1735 E.G. Miles Parkway. They also heard a proposal to amend the city ordinance governing the sale of alcohol by businesses close to homes, libraries, churches and schools. The amended ordinance would allow for the sale of alcohol by these establishments up to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.