City Council declines drug tests

September 21, 2013

There will be no random drug testing for members of the Granbury City Council.

Tony Allen’s motion died Tuesday night for lack of a second after City Attorney Stuart Neal, at the request of councilman Micky Parson, read aloud a memorandum he (Neal) had written advising against such a policy.

The city attorney said that such a policy would likely be in violation of council members’ Fourth Amendment rights and could be problematic in other ways as well.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures conducted by the government.

Allen, who suggested drug testing for elected officials during his first year on the council, did so again recently when it was decided that certain city employees who work in “safety sensitive” positions would be subjected to random testing. Allen said that two random drug tests per year for each council member would cost the city about $1,000.

In his memorandum, Neal noted that “careful attention” had been paid when the city’s substance abuse policy for “safety sensitive” employees was drafted.

“That being said, because of the nature of the work performed by the members of the City Council, it is hard to imagine how the city could categorize the members of the City Council as being in ‘safety sensitive’ positions,” Neal stated in his memorandum.

The city attorney’s memo noted that in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Georgia law requiring anyone seeking elective office to submit a clean drug test before filing for a place on the ballot. The court ruled that such a law was unconstitutional.

“If the City Council votes to implement such a policy, that vote could likely result in the City Council opening the city up to potential future litigation from either a member desiring not to take a drug test or a person desiring to seek a seat on the City Council but not wanting to be required to take a random test,” Neal wrote in the memo. The city would likely lose such a lawsuit, he said.

A major factor, as well, in Neal’s advice not to adopt a drug testing policy was the ramifications of a positive finding. City Council members, he said, are not subject to the city’s Personnel Policy Manual, and the city’s Home Rule Charter does not “provide a remedy” for a council member’s refusal to take a drug test, or failure to pass one.

Nevertheless, Allen made a motion to adopt the policy.

After the proposal died for lack of support, Neal commented that council members are free at any time to take a drug test if they want to.

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