City Council Approves ADA, Title VI Resolutions

(Carli Luca / News Now Warsaw)

Two separate resolutions naming the ADA and Title VI coordinators for the city of Warsaw gave Human Resources Director Jennifer Whitaker a chance to talk to the Common Council about how and why the municipality doesn’t discriminate.

Both resolutions were approved 6-0 by the Council, with Councilman Jeff Grose absent from Monday’s meeting.

The resolution adopting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator and grievance procedures came up first, with the city planner (Justin Taylor) being named as coordinator. Taylor replaces Jeremy Skinner, who was named the coordinator in 2016 as city planner but is now the city’s economic development coordinator. Whitaker said the city is required to name a person by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

Mayor Joe Thallemer said, “I think this is just good practice to formalize this because these are really critical, very fundamental requirements of federal government, and if there was ever a question, we’d certainly have concerns with funding.”

He said there also was attached a grievance policy that’s required if someone has a concern with an ADA issue.

After that resolution was approved, Whitaker presented the resolution for the adoption of a Title VI coordinator and grievance procedures.

Whitaker said back in 2016, she presented a resolution to accept the Title VI program, which is an INDOT requirement to accept federal funds. The resolution presented to the Council Monday was an updated version and names Whitaker as the Title VI coordinator.

“So, Title VI, just to take one bullet point, ensures that all people are treated equitably regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, gender, age, low-income status or limited English proficiency, and everything else that goes along with it,” Thallemer said.

Council President Jack Wilhite asked Whitaker if anything in it was changed from 2016.

“The grievance policy, the form, the complaint process. We made it a little bit easier. Record-keeping items. It’s going to be easier for admin and department heads to record when they encounter, maybe, limited English proficiencies, maybe some environmental justice situations. They have to report that to me once a year so I can include that into a report that is sent down to the state,” Whitaker said.

Diane Quance, councilwoman, noted that the information regarding the city’s statistics will have to be updated once the city receives the 2020 Census information. Whitaker said it will be, but at this point only the 2010 Census information was available.

“And we are required to make sure that we are looking at those adverse impacts on, again, the environmental justice, the limited English proficiency with any of our programs and this sets the guidelines for department heads and myself, and to receive the funds and what we need to do,” Whitaker said.

Councilman Mike Klondaris asked where anyone with a grievance would make a complaint. Whitaker said they could come to her at city hall, or they can email or call. She said she’s never had anyone come in to city hall about Title VI for any of the city’s programs. Skinner said he had some people come in for sidewalk issues and an apartment complex four to five years ago.

“We do get complaints about ADA, probably more than you will about Title VI,” Skinner said.

Klondaris asked if the Title VI also dealt with ADA items. Whitaker said Title VI is about discrimination. Thallemer said ADA falls within Title VI.

Skinner explained, “A few years back, about six or seven years, the state, INDOT, kind of got slapped by the federal government because they were supposed to be doing ADA plans and Title VI. The policies were supposed to be implemented by every community that applied for federal money. Because they weren’t really keeping up on that, about six or seven years ago … they had every city that applied for federal funds add those through their policies to make sure they were updated based on the federal regulations.”

As part of that, Skinner said they have to continually update their policies.

When the federal government gives INDOT funding, and INDOT gives some of that funding to the city, the city is considered a subrecipient, Whitaker said.

Title VI incorporates ADA, but it is “so much more than that,” she said in trying to explain how ADA and Title VI are interwoven to Klondaris. Whitaker then gave a history lesson to him, saying that not only is Title VI “your civil rights” that prevents discrimination on race, religion, national origin, etc., but it goes deeper than that into gender identity, transgender and sexual orientation.

“I just want to point out that the city created those policies prior to telling us that we had to create those, so I thank Mayor Thallemer and the Council for recognizing that and we put that into our policies anyway,” Whitaker said.

She said it also includes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, the disability acts created under Presidents George H. Bush and George W. Bush and the Adverse Impact, Environmental Justice and the limited English proficiency rules.

“So if I’m going to be putting in a new sidewalk in a location that we know is housing that is primarily non-English-speaking, then we need to send our notices and everything out in (for example) Spanish. That’s what Title VI is,” Whitaker said.

Quance added, “I think, too, Mayor, being on the diversity committee with you, really the most important paragraph in all of this is the very last one.”

The paragraph states that “regardless of receiving federal funds, the city prohibits discrimination and/or the exclusion of individuals from employment or participation opportunities, its municipal facilities, programs, activities and services not only based on the individual person’s race, color, national origin, disability, sex, age, low-income status or limited English proficiency (Title VI), but also individual’s person’s religion, citizenship status, military status, genetic information or any other category protected under federal, state or local law. Further, irrespective of whether sexual orientation or transgender status are legally protected statuses, the city does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status.”

Quance said, “I think that’s the important thing to recognize as a city. We’re not just jumping through a hoop so we can get money. This is a policy and a philosophy of how we operate our city, from the top down and the bottom up. And I think that’s the important thing to recognize about this document.”

Thallemer noted that Whitaker utilizes the city’s employment law attorney exclusively to “comb through these and make sure these are updated.”

Whitaker said, “We’ve always been on the forefront of laws here in our community and I really appreciate that. It makes it much easier. We are doing things before we are told we have to.”

The Council approved the Title VI resolution.