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Under New Diversity Law, Staff Demographics Requested In Budget Presentations

Ryan Benk

Jacksonville Finance Committee Chairman Garrett Dennis is asking city agencies to report on staff demographics as part of their budget presentations next month.

His request stems from a law he sponsored this year to increase diversity in city hiring.

His memo states that it’s “essential that every department highlights its efforts and accomplishments toward the city’s commitment to establish and maintain a diverse representation of the community within all areas of city government.”

Dennis filed the measure mandating diversity presentations after WJCT reported five JEA employees had filed discrimination charges with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

JEA records show that although more than 30 percent of the city’s population is African American, only 17 percent of its workforce in 2015 identified as black.

Local agencies like JEA receive federal funds and thus file demographic reports with the federal government. Dennis’s city law also requires those reports to be presented to City Council and the mayor’s office.

The law also recommends the mayor restore funding for a diversity manager within the Human Rights Commission. Although WJCT could not confirm whether Mayor Lenny Curry heeded that request, he is including an additional commission employee in his proposed budget.

A near-unanimous vote made the bill law, but Dennis received pushback from Councilman Matt Schellenberg, who said the bill was unnecessary. At the same time, former city Human Rights Commissioner Nathan Rousseau said the measure didn’t go far enough because there are no penalties for agencies who don’t meet diversity benchmarks. Florida law prohibits public entities from issuing race-based hiring quotas.

Calls to Dennis’s office were not immediately returned for this story.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.