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Bello Starts Process for Monroe County to Have Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Patti Singer

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello July 14, 2020 announces legislation to change the county charter and create a diversity department. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

He campaigned on diversity and his transition team used the word more than a dozen times when it handed him a report that identified critical issues.

On July 14, County Executive Adam Bello started to turn words into actions.

Bello announced that he is submitting legislation that would change the Monroe County Charter in order to create a Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Bello also cited events in recent weeks after the death of George Floyd in police custody that “make it more critical than ever that we take affirmative steps to challenge the status quo.”

Getting the department in place could take several months because of the legislative process, which is expected to include at least one public hearing. A job description for chief diversity officer will be posted after the legislation is introduced.

“From the outset, a core priority of my administration has been to ensure that county government reflects the diversity of the community and serves the community equitably,” Bello said at a news conference outside the Monroe County Office Building.

Democratic Minority Leader Vince Felder, along with Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, Frank Keophetlasy, John Baynes and Howard Maffucci, joined Bello.

“This is not window dressing,” Felder said.

He called it a serious effort to have a county government that represents all residents. “Today is the beginning of some work.”

The department is being created from vacant positions that already are funded, so it is not costing the county additional funds. The county, like other municipalities, has lost sales-tax revenue because of COVID-19.

The department will renew and consolidate efforts to find effective ways to recruit, select, place and promote people of racial and ethnic minorities, women, veterans, individuals who identify as LGBTQ and people with disabilities.

The new department also will review and monitor county contacting and procurement procedures to make sure that entities doing business with the county are inclusive and diverse.

The chief diversity officer will work to develop and implement policies that foster diversity, supervise equal employment opportunity functions and the selection procedures for minority/women owned business enterprises. The CDO also will investigate internal complaints of discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment and unequal treatment.

Bello said the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion could complement the work of the city-county Commission on Race and Structural Equity, which is in the process of selecting its members. RASE is scheduled to have its first meeting in early August.