Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman’s resolution to stop asking on the initial application form if seekers of Macon-Bibb government jobs have any criminal convictions passed committee 3-2 Tuesday after long debate.
It was backed by Commissioners Elaine Lucas, Larry Schlesinger and Virgil Watkins.
That won’t stop background checks or later questions about criminal history, but it will prevent automatic rejection before an applicant’s qualifications are known, Tillman said. Making it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs is one of the best ways to prevent recidivism, but often people automatically are rejected based on that checked box on an application, he said.
“It’s like this is a continued punishment for them, even though it may have been 10, 20, in some cases we’ve found 30 years (since people served their sentences),” Tillman said.
Many other states and cities, including Atlanta, have “banned the box” and have seen an uptick in hiring former convicts with no problems, he said.
Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard, however, said Macon-Bibb doesn’t automatically reject applicants with criminal histories.
“So we basically have been doing this all along,” he said.
That resolution, and all other items approved in committee Tuesday, are expected back for final votes by the full commission Feb. 24.
Design contracts for three construction projects all got unanimous approval in committee.
Architectural firm BTBB is expected to get $81,500 for designing the long-awaited new fire station on Donnan Road, paid from a previous bond issue.
From special purpose local option sales tax funds, Sizemore Group LLC’s existing design contract is expected to grow by $18,900 to cover turning the Bloomfield Park recreation center into a new senior citizens center. And also from SPLOST funds, Triple Point Engineering Inc. should get $12,000 for designing improvements at East Macon Park.
Tillman’s resolution asking state legislators to reconsider two existing juvenile justice laws got unanimous approval in the Public Safety Committee.
Senate Bill 440 requires that those ages 13 to 17 charged with seven specific violent crimes must be tried as adults, while Senate Bill 441 mandates that juveniles convicted of a second such crime receive life without parole. That has greatly increased the population of young prisoners without really increasing public safety, Tillman said. They were passed in an attempt to be tougher than similar laws elsewhere, he said.
Commissioners agreed to close the portion of Third Street Lane that runs behind the William A. Bootle Federal Courthouse, between Mulberry Street and Walnut Street Lane, to public vehicle traffic.
Pedestrians could still use it, but courthouse workers are worried that a truck packed with explosives could be parked in the lane, according to a letter from William Tanner, U.S. District Court clerk.
Schlesinger noted that in the 1995 bombing of the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, bomber Timothy McVeigh was able to park his explosives-laden truck “right next to the building.”
All regular committees elected officers Tuesday morning, with little change from the past year.
In the commission’s Operations & Finance Committee, Commissioner Gary Bechtel remained as chairman and Lucas as vice chairwoman. In the Economic & Community Development Committee, Schlesinger remained as chairman, but Tillman rejected his renomination as vice chairman, successfully suggesting Lucas instead.
The Public Safety Committee remained unchanged, with Commissioner Scotty Shepherd as chairman and Watkins as vice chairman. In the Facilities & Engineering Committee, Tillman and Commissioner Mallory Jones swapped places, with Jones becoming chairman and Tillman vice chairman. All elections were uncontested.
Meeting briefly as a committee of the whole, commissioners unanimously approved Jean Howard to become their clerk, replacing Shelia Thurmond, who recently retired. Howard has been assistant clerk of commission and has filled in for Thurmond since her departure.
Mayor Robert Reichert said the job attracted 93 applicants, but Howard was the unanimous choice of a selection committee.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.