The motion passed 3 to 2, with County Judge Tim O’Hare and Commissioners Gary Fickes (R-Pct. 3) and Manny Ramirez (R-Pct. 4) voting for and Commissioners Roy Charles Brooks (D-Pct. 1) and Alisa Simmons (D-Pct. 2) voting against the motion.
The training program was mandated by the previous commissioners court as an annual requirement for its employees in late 2021 after an exploratory pilot program.
The training for employees includes courses on harassment prevention, active shooter situations, promoting respect in the workplace, unconscious bias training, and workplace security.
The training for supervisors includes harassment prevention for managers, preventing harassment and promoting respect, active shooter situations, promoting respect in the workplace for managers, equal employment opportunity and lawful hiring, preventing bullying and violence, unconscious bias training, overview for managers on the Americans with Disabilities Act, legally protected leave, and workplace safety.
Employees were to be punished if they did not complete their training program.
The discussion that took place during the commissioners court meeting about removing the training requirement was lengthy, about 48 minutes.
Discourse started with three county government department heads voicing their concerns, followed by two representatives from the Tarrant County Human Resources Department answering questions about the training. The discussion finished with limited debate among the commissioners and O’Hare, followed by the vote.
Sheriff Bill Waybourn voiced several concerns with the training requirement, stating that there were redundant elements that the sheriff’s office’s standard training already covers. He also voiced frustrations that the active shooter training was often in contradiction with the current training for his office and that the requirement adds 2,200 hours in paid overtime, costing taxpayers around $100,000.
Next to speak was Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder with three main arguments: the training is redundant with his office’s current training, the county commissioners court may not have the authority to mandate such training in the first place, and the training actively conflicts with the mandated duties of the district clerk’s office.
Wilder also voiced agreement with the points brought up by Waybourn and asked that there be a suspension of the current punishments in place for not finishing the training.
Justice of the Peace Court 4 Judge Christopher Gregory then spoke briefly, stating that he had taken the required training and was appalled by some of its content. He said that he was already duty-bound to treat everyone equally and that he absolutely opposes the training being required.
O’Hare started the discussion between the commissioners and human resources.
He stated that some of the materials covered by the compliance training were good, but that there were other things he disagreed with. He also talked about the relationship between a centralized agency — such as the human resources department — and the elected officials in this situation. He said he believed that the agency had no legal authority over elected officials and that they are accountable to the people that elected them.
O’Hare concluded that he believes he and the people working for the county can treat other people well and that if there is an issue, it’s with the people in charge.
He said, “If we’re hiring people in this county that don’t know how to get along with their fellow man or woman, then we have a problem with hiring, we have a problem with the people supervising them and leading them, and I happen to believe that people generally are good and well-natured and treat people well. I know that’s true with me and my office.”
The representatives of the human resources department were brought forward to discuss the origin of the training and the reasons why there was a mandate originally.
The department said that in order to be better organized, it felt a need to document courses and training that county employees had taken. It then implemented the Learning Management System to solve this concern. As a result, the department was able to reduce costs and bring more training in-house instead of from a third party.
The next conversation centered on mandatory training in the role of reducing legal risks. The representatives from human resources explained that training is the first line of defense against litigation and Equal Employment Opportunity Act complaints.
Fickes stated that county commissioners are required by state law to do training annually and that the required training covers the same topics as the county training. Ramirez expressed that he had a previous experience with implicit bias training that caused a lot of division among his employees, and that if the county’s unconscious bias training was similar, there should be no requirement to expose employees to complete it.
On the other hand, Simmons asserted that the entire discussion was purely political, and that if the unconscious bias course was removed from the training there wouldn’t be an issue.
O’Hare responded that the real issue was that the court did not have the legal right to require training.
Brooks pointed out that 85 percent of employees had already taken the training and that to him, it did not make much sense to spend the money on the training and get most of the way through implementation just to cut and run.
Ramirez motioned to continue offering the training but lift the current requirement to complete it. The motion was seconded and the vote was cast, passing 3 to 2.
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