Avondale Estates City Commissions continues discussion of non-discrimination ordinance
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – The Avondale Estates City Commission on Sept. 16 continued discussion on drafting a non-discrimination ordinance.
In July, the board began the conversation of adopting a non-discrimination ordinance and City Attorney Stephen Quinn drafted a memo to the board members that outlines the types of discrimination that will be prohibited, in what settings protection will apply, how discrimination complaints will be handled and how violations will be enforced, Mayor Jonathan Elmore said.
Essentially the City Commission would state a zero-tolerance for discrimination, City Manager Patrick Bryant said at the work session on July 15. Other cities in DeKalb County, such as Decatur and Clarkston, have passed non-discrimination ordinances.
The city isn’t expecting to receive many discrimination complaints. Cities in DeKalb County with non-discrimination ordinances have not yet received any complaints, Quinn said.
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Quinn recommended that the ordinance only applies to licensed businesses and the enforcement-only relates to business licenses, Elmore said.
The City Commission discussed how complaints should be handled. Options included mediation and going through the municipal court.
The municipal court or a hearing officer would hold a hearing, find the facts and provide due process including a chance for the accused to defend themselves, Quinn said.
“So it would definitely go through the court and the court would definitely make findings primarily that either the ordinance was or was not violated,” he said. “Then either the court would send that information to the BOMC for a decision on the punishment or you could authorize the court to impose the punishment itself.”
Elmore and Commissioner Lisa Shortell preferred having the process go through the municipal court and were concerned about the cost of hiring a mediator.
“My opinion is that municipal court would be the best route for handling those complaints,” Elmore said.
Commissioners Brian Fisher, Lionel Laratte and Dee Merriam favored mediation.
If the city decides to use this process, the claimant and defendant would work with a mediator to come to a resolution. If they cannot reach an agreement then the case would go to the municipal court.
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The City Commission also has the option to limit the amount of time the claimant and defendant could do mediation. For example, the city could pay for three hours of mediation but anything beyond that, those involved would have to pay for.
The city, however, could not make the parties involved pay for the mediator on the front end as no one would have been convicted. But what might be an effective option is to have the city pay for the mediator and put in the ordinance that a complaint could be dismissed if an agreement is reached and one of the individuals involved pays for the mediator, Quinn said.
It is up to the board members to decide what process works best and how to enforce the ordinance. Quinn also recommended that the City Commission provide some direction to the municipal court on the severity of offenses and the level of punishment, which could include suspending a business license for a period of time.
The City Commission plans to continue this discussion at the October work session and have Quinn provide as much detail as possible about meditation and possible punishments so the board understands the options.
The City Commission’s next meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 6:30 p.m. and will be conducted via Zoom.
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