As the Granbury City Council went into closed session Tuesday night to discuss a personnel matter, a brief debate occurred in the council chambers over whether a new substance abuse policy just passed by the council would require newly elected officials to submit to drug tests.
Council members, like city employees, receive pay. They also adhere to certain rules and procedures that apply to city employees.
That being the case, would they have to undergo the same “pre-employment” drug screening that will be given to new hires?
The question of whether elected officials would have to submit to drug testing naturally segued to another question: What if a newly elected council member were to fail it?
City Manager Wayne McKethan and Human Resources Director Christi Sanders consulted with City Attorney Stuart Neal about it while the City Council remained behind closed doors discussing the renewal of Neal’s contract.
Neal said that excluding elected officials from the practice should not pose any legal problems. However, preventing an elected official from taking office after he or she failed a drug test could potentially open a giant can of worms.
McKethan then told the Hood County News that no effort will be made to subject the city’s governing body to drug testing.
“I think we can explain it to the feds,” he said.
The reason behind the updating of the city’s substance abuse policy has to do with federal grant money that the city could not receive otherwise. Federal grant money will be funding the bulk of the planned airport expansion.
“We currently have a policy,” Sanders told the City Council during the public portion of the meeting.
“But this will make the policy stronger and more effective.”
In addition to pre-employment drug screenings, drug testing will be done on those who have a commercial drivers license or operate machinery such as forklifts or chainsaws. Those who work with children, such as lifeguards and umpires, also would undergo the screenings.
A couple of dozen of the city’s approximately 140 employees “wouldn’t be in the pool” for random screenings, McKethan said.
He told the council that random screenings will be done by “an independent organization.”
According to Sanders, any employees who go to their supervisor seeking help for a substance abuse problem will receive six counseling sessions free of charge.
“We can give them amnesty and send them to a treatment program without their job being in danger,” she said.
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