Kent County to spend $25,000 on diversity study


DOVER — Kent County has decided to hire Ivy Planning Group for $25,000 to perform a “diversity and inclusion” study of the county’s almost 300 staff members. In their response to a request for proposal issued by the county in February, the consultant included an estimate for an affirmative action plan and associated training for $5,000 and $7,500 respectively.

The decision to implement the study was made after a 5-2 vote at the Tuesday Levy Court meeting with 4th District Commissioner Eric Buckson and 6th District Commissioner Glen Howell voting against it.

“I’m not in favor of the diversity study, but I’m absolutely in favor of diversity,” said Mr. Buckson. “I’m not willing to spend almost $35,000 on a study when we have the information right in front of us to make the necessary changes.

“We’ve already had two studies before and know what the problems are. There is ample information out there that can guide this county in a direction that would make corrective actions.

“If you want to spend the money, we can spend it, but we can spend it on resources that would then go out and headhunt, attract and go after in a way that brings about change that we already know we need to make. We can do this in house.”

Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange noted that the county previously had a diversity study in 2001 that cost $3,000 and another in 2009 — performed by University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration — that cost $12,000.

“The UD study had recommendations which we’ve been pursuing, and we’ve see some gains in diversity, however we don’t think we’ve met the benchmarks that we’d hoped for,” said Mr. Petit de Mange.

“We think it’s important to periodically to have a non-biased, third party, unaffiliated organization come in and give us an objective view and some recommendations on things we can do differently.”

The county received six bids in response to its request ranging from $25,000 to $348,000.

In its request, county administrators noted that the chosen consultant should provide a final report that includes:

• Recruitment/selection process and policies evaluation

• Internal workforce and job group analysis

• Personnel activity data and progression analysis

• Area demographics and workforce overview

• Documentation and recommendation of representation goals

• Development of a detailed strategic plan of action and/or policies to meet goals

• Training recommendations for staff

• Development of forms/processes necessary to track applicants, new hires, demotions, promotions, transfers and terminations

• Meeting(s) with elected officials, department heads, managers and supervisors to review the plan, discuss the commitments, and answer any questions.

Before voting for the measure, first district commissioner P. Brooks Banta said the study would help county staff evaluate its progress.

“It’s important for the county’s workforce to reflect our diverse community,” he said. “I think we’re committed to that goal. Previous studies have put us on that path, but now we have to evaluate our successes and understand the remaining challenges ahead.”

Mr. Petit de Mange said the study will likely take eight to 10 months to complete.

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