The City Council on Monday voted down a proposal to add a maternity leave benefit for city employees.
The proposal was defeated 3-2. Council members Tim Thomas, Mike Davis and Carolyn Robbins voted against it while Chuck Shaheen and Keith Lauritsen voted in favor. Councilman Clifford Holmes, the mayor pro-tem, was filling in for Mayor Randy Toms, who was at a meeting of the Georgia State Firefighters Association.
Lauritsen, who made the motion to approve it, spoke strongly in favor it, and he had some strong words during the council comments portion of the meeting.
“I’m heartbroken and very disappointed that this measure did not pass,” he said. “We need to do what’s right for all of our citizens. ... I just think we need to get our priorities in order.”
Those who voted against it did not comment during the regular meeting but in the pre-council meeting Davis expressed concerns about the cost. Shaheen said during his time as mayor and on council he knew of only a couple of women who might have benefited from it, so he didn’t think it would be much of a cost.
Although the mayor or the person acting as mayor typically only votes in a tie, the person in that role can exercise the option to vote at any time, but Holmes declined to do so. After the meeting he declined to say how he would have voted.
The change, which was proposed by Shaheen at the last council meeting, would have given city employees four weeks of paid maternity leave. Currently employees have to take sick days or vacation time for maternity leave, and also can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Shaheen argued that it was unfair for people to have to use sick leave or vacation time for maternity leave.
Also at the meeting, the council approved changes to the subdivision ordinance and zoning ordinance. The changes give developers more options that could benefit the environment. Primarily the changes are aimed at reducing pavement and therefore reducing stormwater runoff and pollution. Developers could build narrower roads in some cases or smaller parking lots.
An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that Lauritsen was called out of order following the maternity leave vote. Shaheen was the councilman who was called out of order for attempting to speak after the vote was taken.