Council kicks-off talks on county-wide commission

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — Lima City councilors took their first steps toward re-establishing a potential multi-jurisdictional commission with powers to identify discriminatory practices during a Monday night committee meeting.

Known as the Human Resources Commission, the city body had last functioned in 1976 before former members of that board had resigned en masse after failing to secure subpoena powers.

Councilors had decided to revive the commission in wake of mass protests seen across the country after the death of George Floyd. Both Mayor David Berger and the Lima African American Chamber of Commerce had also called for the reconstitution of the commission to help repair cross-community relations.

During Monday night’s meeting, Lima Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith clarified the administration’s position on the commission. Through its formation, Smith requested that councilors use the opportunity to expand anti-discrimination laws to all organizations operating in city limits and ensure the commission can operate outside of Lima.

Smith said the administration is also hoping council sees the re-institution of the non-discriminatory body as a high priority.

“It’s not something that can wait. We would like to see the ordinance voted on and changed and getting people on the commission as soon as possible,” Smith said.

Councilors had no disagreement on the need for such a commission, but the more than hour of discussion featured councilors trying to figure out exactly who should have representation on the board.

A potential sticking point for councilors, however, may be trying to get a larger buy-in from the wider community. While multiple city officials have signaled their intent to dismantle systemic racism, councilors were unsure whether those operating on the county or trustee levels would want to have representation on the board, or if such governments would adhere to any ruling made by the commission at a future date.

“Lima is a part of Allen County and we’re in all of this together. Lima is the county seat. The city functions in the county, and the county needs the city. And we need to start acting like it,” Committee Chair Carla Thompson said.

While council ultimately preferred for a loose set of rules to keep representation varied, councilors had discussed trying to recruit commission members from four segments — social services, safety services, the business community and general residents. Councilor Jamie Dixon also asked that members from the faith community also receive an invitation to serve.

The final committee recommendations, however, ended up being a little more simple. In order to ensure the bulk of the voting power remains with Lima residents, committee recommended that 65% of council appointees be Lima residents.

“We’ll got bogged down with a lot of government (appointees),” Councilor Peggy Ehora said. “We’ll get nowhere. They’ll dig in, and they’ll dig in politically.”

Councilors also asked that appointing responsibilities be relegated to all council members and ensured that the commission may create a paid coordinator position if its responsibilities demand it down the line.

The committee asked Lima Law Director Tony Geiger to begin forming legislation to be considered by Council at a later date. Thompson said she will also begin drafting a letter to be sent out to governmental entities outside of the city to gauge their intent on joining with the commission.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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