Hillsborough activist Michelle Willliams on battling racism in the county; also court ruling on 2011 Elections bill

05/31/12 Mitch Perry
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Michelle Williams has been battling local politicians for years in Hillsborough County, but her profile increased exponentially recently after a recording of her blasting George Zimmerman and "white people" made national news. Williams is a member of the New Black Panther Party, which has always been controversial and became more so after declaring a bounty on Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old unarmed black youth Trayvon Martin on February 26.

Also on the program was Deirdre Macnab, the president of the Florida League of Women Voters, with the League's first public comments just hours after a federal judge in Tallahassee ruled that a provision of a 2011 election slaw that made it much harder to register voters should be rejected.

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Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank was not happy with our editorial last week opposing legislation allowing her agency, along with 21 others, to opt out of Civil Service Board Service. Our big worry is the return to patronage. Without checks and balances, we believe friends and family will be first in line for county jobs. Ms. Frank counters that she has an anti?nepotism policy that is stronger than Civil Service’s and her policies are open to the public for all to see. Her policy isn’t that easy to see. It’s not on the Internet; it’s on their intranet, so no one can easily see it. Her nepotism policy isn’t even in the employee handbook, which she sent to me. The policy is given to applicants and was difficult to find. It is the State’s policy with an expanded definition of what constitutes a relative and there is plenty of room to declare that the relationship c...auses no conflict. We are glad the Clerk of the Circuit Court has an expanded policy, but our concerns don’t end there. We believe that if agencies are left to their own means for recruitment, diversity will suffer. That means fewer Hispanics and Blacks will be hired. Ms. Frank has 674 classified employees. Classified employees are recruited and screened by Civil Service Board Service. The skills necessary for their job are quantified and coded by Civil Service. Out of the 674 classified employees, 55 percent are minorities, with 32 percent Black and 20 percent Hispanic. The Clerk has 62 unclassified employees. These are employees recruited by the Clerk’s Office. She can hire and fire them at will and basically pay them anything she wants. These are the highest paying jobs. Only 24 percent of these unclassified hires are minorities, with 13 percent Black and eight percent Hispanic. These numbers are far below the county’s population. The Clerk’s Office, when left to its own devices, hires 50 percent fewer minorities than it does when working within the Civil Service structure. Legislators such as Janet Cruz, Betty Reed, Darryl Rouson, and Arthenia Joyner should be concerned with supporting any bill that would allow county agencies to opt out of Civil Service. La Gaceta Editorial (within “As We Heard It”) October 18, 2013 by Patrick Manteiga