The Hot Button  | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Issue: Efforts continue to implement a domestic-violence policy for all city employees. In January, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl proposed an ordinance, similar to one in the police department, on the heels of domestic-abuse allegations against then-sergeant Eugene Hlavac (who was eventually fired). It calls for domestic-abuse prevention and intervention; establishes procedures for dealing with employees who commit domestic violence; and refers victims to resources. A task force of city administrators, councilors and advocates are still revising the draft to address community concerns. 

Downsides of the proposal: The mayor first called for "zero tolerance" of domestic abuse, and for requiring discipline for a city employee accused of, and termination of those convicted of, domestic violence or a qualifying protection order. The zero-tolerance language is no longer in the ordinance, but not everyone thinks that's a downside. Some advocates say the wording would deter victims, or potential perpetrators who want counseling, from making a report. "It's really important [because] people can come forward without risking their job or the job of the person they're dependent on," says Jeanne Clark, president of the Squirrel Hill chapter of the National Organization for Women, and member of the committee. She adds, "I'm looking for a policy that doesn't just deal with discipline, but on reporting and prevention."

Upsides of the proposal: The proposal attempts to deal with domestic violence by addressing various areas: training for employees; intervention when there are warning signs; support for victims; and levels of discipline up to termination when there are allegations or convictions. It also creates the Employee Domestic Violence Review Board, designed to review all incidents, and hopes to refer victims, as well as perpetrators, to resources. "What we've tried to do," says Judy Hill Finegan, director of the personnel department, "is to treat people fairly. At the same time, we're paying attention to victims and what their needs are."

How you can sound off: Pittsburgh City Council will hold two public meetings on the subject Mon., April 19, in council chambers on the fifth floor of the City-County Building. A special meeting, with no public comment allowed, will occur at 10 a.m. to discuss the proposal with city representatives, advocates and unions. A public hearing, during which public testimony will be taken, will be held at 2 p.m.

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