Montgomery County Council Press Releases & Statements

Montgomery Councilmember Phil Andrews Proposes Ballot Issue on Charter Amendment to Expand County Hiring for People with Physical, Cognitive Disabilities
 
  • Release ID: 12-116
  • Release Date: 6/18/2012
  • Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931
  • From: Council Office
ROCKVILLE, Md., June 18, 2012—Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews today proposed that the Council place on the November ballot a County Charter Amendment that would enable establishment of “a special hiring authority within the County merit system to recruit, select and hire persons with significant physical or cognitive disabilities that substantially limit one or more major life activities.”

Councilmember Andrews, in a memo to his fellow Councilmembers, notes that the County has already taken a number of important steps to expand opportunities for people with disabilities, including the 2010 legislation the Council approved to provide a hiring preference to veterans and people with disabilities who are applying for an initial position in County Government and are among the highest rated group of applicants. The County also established a Customized Employment Public Intern Project in its Health and Human Services Department that provides opportunities for people with significant cognitive and developmental disabilities. Those positions must be limited to two years or less.

However, because of the inflexibility of the current merit system, the County Government—unlike the Federal Government under its Schedule A (Special Hiring Authority) system—cannot hire qualified people with significant disabilities directly into certain positions.

“The unemployment rate for people with disabilities by any and all measures far exceeds the general unemployment rate,” said Councilmember Andrews. “In order to help reduce the high unemployment and underemployment rate for people with disabilities, Montgomery County has taken a number of important steps to expand opportunities and be a model employer. Now, we need to take this next step.”

In June 2008, the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight report "Hiring Persons with Disabilities: A Review of County Government Practices" offered four recommendations. The County has adopted many or all of the components of three of the recommendations. However, the Council has not yet taken up the fourth recommendation, which was that "the Council explicitly discuss and decide whether to pursue a Charter Amendment to enable the County Government to establish a special hiring authority within the merit system for hiring persons with disabilities."

In November 2009, the Council voted unanimously to "ask the Charter Review Commission to study whether to amend the County Charter to allow the establishment of a special hiring authority within the County merit system that would permit an alternative approach of the recruitment, selection and hiring of people with disabilities into merit system positions. In June 2010, Nancy Soreng, then-chair of the Charter Review Commission, wrote to then-Council President Nancy Floreen: "Although sympathetic with the goals of the proposal, a majority of members do not recommend amending the Charter at this time to authorize a special hiring authority under the merit system for persons with disabilities."

In 2011, a new Charter Review Commission was appointed, as required by the Charter. The current commission has been provided with substantial information about the special hiring authority issue, but does not plan to make a recommendation to the Council or County Executive regarding this issue before the deadline in August for the Council to place a Charter Amendment on the November ballot.

“The Charter Review Commission(s) have had two and a half years to consider the important issue of a Special Hiring Authority to expand County Government employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities,” said Councilmember Andrews. “The Council should not wait another two years to make a decision about whether to place the issue on the ballot. The very high unemployment (and underemployment) rate of people with disabilities is both an important and urgent concern.”

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