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City wants zero tolerance drug policy

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm

By Josh Peterson, Editor

The policy governing drug use by Manchester City employees has come under the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s microscope after a Manchester fireman allegedly failed a drug test.

The fireman, whose name is not being released, was suspended for three “fireman days” by Manchester Fire Chief Charlie Taylor. Manchester firemen work for 24 hours straight and then take off 48 hours.

But that punishment was not stiff enough, according to alderman Cheryl Swan, who made a motion to override Taylor’s three-day punishment in favor of a 30-day suspension. The motion passed.

But under the current Manchester code, the language is conflicting on what a department head such as Taylor can do in this situation. Code 4-232 says, “In situations where an oral warning or written reprimand have not resulted in the expected improvement, or when more sever initial action is warranted, the department head may suspend the employee with or without pay for a period of time not to exceed three days. The mayor may extend the suspension for a period of time not to exceed 30 days.” The code doesn’t say anything about the board’s ability to extend that punishment, only the mayor’s.

However, a subsection under code 4-207, which covers drug and alcohol testing, states, “engaging in prohibited and/or illegal conduct may lead to termination of employment.”

Alderman Ryan French opposed Swan’s motion to extend the suspension of the unnamed fireman, but said introducing a zero-tolerance drug policy should be the next step.

“Unfortunately, it’s policy,” French said. “Law is law. We can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. While I don’t agree with current policy at all, it is policy. I don’t know who failed a drug test. But I know we have a precedent that was previously set. I will support the department heads opinion and how they feel we need to move forward with it. If we vote for policy tonight, I’ll vote to change that. I think we need a zero tolerance drug policy in the City of Manchester.

“If the city decides to go with a three-day suspension, I don’t think that in any means says we support drug use. We are just staying in the guidelines already set.”

French went on to make a motion to visit the drug policy and set a zero tolerance standard. That motion passed 6-0.

Read the complete story in this week’s print edition of the Manchester Times.