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Transgender issue may return soon

By Justin Boron

A proposal to include transgendered and homosexual employees in Riverdale's discrimination policy could come up for discussion again as early as next meeting, said City Council member Michelle Bruce, who is a self-described "inter-sexed" individual.

The issue came to a vote in March and failed after Mayor Phaedra Graham broke a 2-2 tie council vote. At the time, Graham said there may be room for more discussion of the proposal.

Graham stuck by her past comments that the city doesn't tolerate any type of discrimination.

"If she wants to bring it up, she can bring it up," she said.

Bruce said the added provisions are meant to protect the city better after months of consternation last year over discrimination and a U.S. Justice Department investigation. The turmoil was followed by the resignation of the Riverdale police chief and pushed the city to make changes in its leadership positions.

Councilman Kenny Ruffin, who along with Councilman Rick Scoggins voted against the proposal, said he is prepared to discuss the matter further.

"I'm a lot more knowledgeable about the whole issue," he said.

Scoggins also said he is open to further discussion.

But both of them also argued that the city discrimination policy already includes provisions for homosexuals.

City Manager Iris Jessie said the section of the city personnel handbook for discrimination specifies "sexual orientation" but not specifically "transgendered" employees.

Bruce said while she is sure the council members will continue to do what is in the best interest of citizens, there has been some division lately.

"Everybody has their own personal agendas up there and their own personal attacks on other people, other council members," Bruce said. "They are aligning themselves, some in a good way and some in a bad way."

At the same time as relationships may be growing more tense on the council, its members are attempting to boost the government's image and the morale of employees.

Scoggins said he wants to build upon community events like last weekend's yard sale and concert.

Ruffin said an ethics initiative he and the council are pursuing through the Georgia Municipal Association also will help the city's marketability when negotiating for new businesses.