Liberty County commissioners Thursday heard for a second time about Ban the Box, a campaign to make it easier for ex-cons to get jobs.
According to Liston Singletary, who spoke to the Hinesville City Council and the commissioners earlier this month, Ban the Box aims to end what he called employment discrimination against convicted criminals who’ve served out their sentences. Earlier, he left information about the campaign, including a list of cities that have already removed the employment application question (box) about convictions.
Singletary said the question is no longer relevant because they have paid their debt to society. He is urging city, county and state leaders to remove the question from job applications and allow former criminals opportunities to compete for jobs based on their merit, not their past.
“As far as the administrative part of the employment process, it won’t make a difference (if that question is removed),” County Administrator Joey Brown said. “In order to be transparent with all applicants though, I think it’s important to mention on the (application) cover sheet that in the event (he or she) is selected, the county will ask for a (criminal) background check.”
District 3 Commissioner Connie Thrift agreed with Brown, but District 5 Commissioner Gary Gilliard suggested a notice about a background check might scare off some people. He said such a statement should note that a criminal conviction would not preclude being hired.
District 6 Commissioner Eddie Walden said applicants already list periods of unemployment on an application and that does not in themselves prevent the applicant from being hired.
Brown said some jobs require the conviction question.
“Certain jobs involve the conduct of activities for state and federal government agencies,” Brown said. “If these agencies do not allow felons to access certain information then they would be precluded from holding the position.”
He said the county also needs to be careful about liability.
The issue will be back on the commissioners’ agenda in December, Brown said.
In other business, the commissioners heard and approved a request by Dryden Enterprises that roads and easements on the final plot for the Villages at Limerick, phases 1, 2 and 5 be accepted. Company owner Claude Dryden Jr. said his company’s maintenance has already extended beyond the one-year requirement specified by the county.
County Attorney Kelly Davis presented proposed changes to the policy governing attendance by board members appointed by commissioners. He said the change would give commissioners more flexibility to excuse board members who are not attending meetings. Brown told commissioners the new policy would be effective for new appointees but that it would be good to have current members read and sign the new policy.
Davis also reviewed parts of a new policy for minority/women businesses. The details of the new policy were carefully noted by board members. District 2 Commissioner Justin Frasier asked Davis about changing the preposition used in a particular sentence in the policy.
“I think the board’s desire was to adopt a policy that’s the mirror image of the (Liberty County) Development Authority’s policy,” Davis said.
He was also asked about current contracts.
“I don’t think it’ll impact any proposed contracts,” the attorney said.