© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sarno And City Council Square Off Over Creation Of 'Chief Diversity Officer' Position

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno in February 2018.
Dave Roback
The Republican / masslive.com/photos
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno in February 2018.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno is facing criticism after he vetoed an ordinance establishing a chief diversity officer for the city.

In his veto message, Sarno cited an opinion from the city solicitor that said only the mayor can propose new spending, so the Springfield City Council does not have authority to create the position. Sarno also called the ordinance "redundant," and noted Springfield already has an equal opportunity administrator.

"I will continue to support the work that has been done in the past and will continue in the future regarding diversity initiatives here in our city," Sarno said.

"I really cannot see why the mayor would veto something like this," responded Trevaughn Smith, a recent  graduate of Sabis International Charter School and co-founder of the group Teens for Action Springfield.

Smith said private employers like MGM and Springfield College are sending a more inclusive message about hiring than what's coming from the city government.

"I would definitely be interested in the private sector, but it seems like the public sector is sort of a lost cause when it comes to diversity -- especially with this recent veto," he said.

The City Council passed the ordinance after noting a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in top city jobs. Council President Orlando Ramos said that this creates a problem both in attracting minority job applicants, and retaining them once hired.

"It's a huge concern for our employees and our minority workforce who -- when they look at the top -- they don't see much diversity," Ramos said Wednesday. "That doesn't give them any indication or encouragement that they have the opportunity to advance."

Ramos said that he'll schedule a vote to override the mayor's veto at the council's next regular meeting, on July 16. He expects that to pass.

"We [will] have created a law that creates a new position within the city of Springfield. And if the mayor chooses not to follow that law, he would be in violation and he'll be breaking the law," Ramos said. "I'm hoping we don't have to get to that point. If we do, we'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Sam Hudzik has overseen local news coverage on New England Public Media since 2013. He manages a team of about a dozen full- and part-time reporters and hosts.
Related Content