Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin was unable to say how many minorities he's hired since taking office last year, but he believes his numbers are considerably higher than those of previous administrations.
Davlin, following Tuesday's Springfield City Council meeting, indicated he was reluctant to put in writing how many non-whites he has hired out of fear of being sued.
"That's my only concern," he said, "not to please the press, but to make sure the city of Springfield does not have a lawsuit where we pay out a monetary claim to anyone, because we do not have the money."
The Davlin administration on Friday - after being prodded by the press, aldermen and others - released a summary that shows the city has a 7.1 percent minority hire rate. The summary was based on information compiled for a mandatory federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report the city filed in 2003.
Davlin said the minority hire numbers should be compared to the number of non-whites in Springfield's work force, not the city's minority population as a whole.
City officials and local leaders in the past have talked about having the city government's work force reflect the makeup of the community, which is 20 percent minorities, according to 2000 Census data.
Davlin instead cited a 2004 report compiled by the Illinois Department of Labor that shows Springfield's "total civilian work force" in 2002 included 7,809 minorities. That's 7.2 percent of the available labor force, according to the report.
He said comparing the city's minority hire numbers to the labor report data is more appropriate than comparing the numbers to the city's total minority population.
"To say that our goal is 20 percent because that's the population, that would far exceed anything that the labor statistics would ever say is possible," he said, adding that removing police and fire positions from the equation shows the city has an 8.6 percent minority hire rate.
The mayor said he met Monday with representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to make sure "they understood the numbers and make sure that we know how to compare things."
"It just shows that when you release raw numbers, it doesn't mean anything. You've got to be able to understand what those numbers are," he said.
The 33-page EEOC report, which the city must file every other year, was based on employees of the city between July 2002 and June 2003. Davlin took office in April 2003.
He said his administration is working hard to recruit more minorities to work for the city.
"I think we're doing things that have never been done previously. We're committing police officers to be full-time recruiters, taking someone off the streets where we now have to make up for that in other ways," he said. "The recruiting we're doing at the fire department and everything we've done in conjunction with the NAACP and the Urban League ... I think it's important to note that we're doing everything we possibly can and things that have never been done in previous administrations."
Davlin also deflected the notion that some community members believe his administration has something to hide, given its reluctance to release the minority data.
"So far, to date, I've never had one person complain to me that we're trying to hide anything. I think what I hear are positive things, that what I'm trying to do is protect the city of Springfield from future lawsuits," he said. "My job is to protect the city of Springfield, and sometimes you've just got to take a little heat in doing that."
Davlin also took a swipe at Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards, who has criticized him for not hiring enough minorities. Davlin called Edwards' statements "hypocritical," saying he hired 20 white male firefighters during his tenure as fire chief between March 2001 and October 2002.
"He's the one who's actually responsible for these low numbers ... and never doing anything at all, never putting a firefighter out recruiting and putting resources in a different area. Yet he's the hypocrite saying we're doing such a bad thing," Davlin said.
"I inherited those numbers under this administration. But how hypocritical can you be when the numbers are his responsibility?"
Edwards said he was the first fire chief to put together a recruitment team made up of minorities, women and white firefighters and that he put the current fire department recruiter, Mark Dyment, in that position. He said he took several other steps to recruit minority firefighter candidates to the department, and noted that the fire chief does not hire firefighters, it's human resources and the mayor who do.
"I think, as usual, the mayor's talking out of one side of his mouth politically and doesn't know what he's talking about out the other side of his mouth," Edwards said.
"If the mayor really wants to talk about his record, let's talk about who he has hired and who he has let go. If you just look at the small cadre of people he's hired, you'll find a great disparity,"
In other business Tuesday, aldermen approved spending $2,000 for the public health department to rent the Prairie Capital Convention Center on Oct. 23 for a "drive-through flu shot clinic."
Anyone seeking a flu vaccination will be able to drive through the center and receive a shot without leaving their vehicle. The clinic will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and health department officials expect to give out at least 500 vaccinations. Health department director Ray Cooke said he has never heard of another public health department conducting such a clinic.
The council also OK'd several appointments to the city's Historic Sites Commission. Davlin reappointed Nancy Evans, Patricia Doyle and Ron Ladley to the commission, along with new appointees Stephen D. Myers, Robert J. Barker and Thomas J. Cullen.