ALTUS — The attorney representing Altus in a lawsuit challenging the city’s English only business communications policy updated the Altus City Council on pending action in the case during an executive session Tuesday night.
Margaret McMorrow-Love said following the executive session that she is pleased with the Jan. 11 ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Danny Maldonado, et al. V. City of Altus, et al.
“The city prevailed on several claims and we’re very pleased with that,” McMorrow-Love said. “We’re very pleased that the court sustained the dismissal of the two individual defendants, because it’s absolutely appropriate ... Mr. Willis and, of course, Mike Nettles.”
Altus Street Commissioner Holmes Willis and City Administrator Mike Nettles were named as defendants in the case, along with the city of Altus.
On Jan. 11, a three-judge panel of the appeals court, based in Denver, remanded the case back to district court with respect to the plaintiffs’ claims of disparate treatment, discrimination and violation of equal protection laws.
In a 2-1 ruling, the panel upheld U.S. District Judge David Russell’s dismissal in February 2004 of other claims, including a claim that the policy violated the Hispanic workers’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
The plaintiffs had filed a petition for rehearing, which was denied by the appeals court, McMorrow-Love explained, adding that the next step in the process will be a scheduling conference with Russell and the attorneys for both sides, which is set for April 4.
The case dates back to complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by 12 Hispanic city employees after the city, in July 2002, adopted the policy — #1.13, Business Communications — which states that "all work related and business communications during the work day shall be conducted in the English language with the exception of those circumstances where it is necessary or prudent to communicate with a citizen, business owner, organization or criminal suspect in his or her native language due to the person or entity's limited English language skills."
The policy does not apply to "strictly private communications between co-workers while they are on approved lunch hours or breaks or before or after work hours while the employees are still on city property if city property is not being used for the communication."
It also does not apply to "private communication between an employee and a family member so long as the communications are limited in time and are not disruptive to the work environment."
In other action Tuesday:
— Capt. Luke Parker of the Salvation Army in Altus and Barbara Patrick, executive director of the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oklahoma, informed the council that a new Boys & Girls Club of Altus will soon be opening.
The club is expected to hold its pre-registration and open house May 20 and the summer program is set to begin June 3.
Parker told the council that the organization’s planning and development task force has gathered about 80 percent of the necessary funding, which will see it through about three years of operation.
“We’re not going to just rush out and start doing a program and then ask the community to support it,” Parker said.
Patrick pointed out some of the programs that will be offered through the club, which serves boys and girls ages 6 through 18, and pointed to some stellar alumni of the program — to include Denzel Washington, Colin Powell, Jamie Farr and sports stars Hank Aaron, Jimmy Pearsall and Ken Griffey Jr. — as proof of the program’s pudding.
Parker and Patrick met this morning with Altus Police Chief Mike Patterson to discuss the program and its pending launch in Altus.
“We’ll be seeing you very soon with an open house,” Patrick said.
— The council voted to declare a vacancy in the Ward 1 office vacated by former Councilman Bobby Richardson, who left the post Feb. 21 to move to Mangum with his wife Candy Richardson, who resigned her post as Altus human resources director to assume the position of city manager in Mangum.
The council was to consider appointing Richardson’s replacement for the Ward 1 seat to serve until the next general municipal election in the spring of 2007, but that agenda item was tabled at the request of Councilman Jerry Don Henry, who said that he preferred that the appointment be made with full attendance of the council. Councilman Sid Willis and Councilman Donald Jouett were both absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.