DART board member says he was 'duped' by attorneys on nondiscrimination policy

Posted on 17 Jun 2010 at 6:53pm

A DART board member said Thursday evening that he was “duped” by the agency’s attorneys into approving a nondiscrimination policy that wouldn’t protect gay or transgender employees.

In an exclusive interview with Dallas Voice, DART board member Claude R. Willams Jr. said he didn’t learn until earlier in the day that neither gay nor transgender workers would be protected under the new policy.

The board’s goal was to add gender identity to the nondiscrimination policy, which has included sexual orientation since 1995. However, a one-word amendment approved by the DART board on Tuesday night would nullify protections for both gay and transgender employees.

Williams, who represents the city of Dallas on the DART board, blamed himself for not catching the amendment, which he said was recommended by the agency’s attorneys. But Williams also vowed to fix it. The DART board is scheduled to take a final vote on the new policy Tuesday, June 22.

“I feel duped and misled,” Williams said. “The new language does not embrace the thoughts and the philosophy we wanted embraced into the policy change. We depended on legal and our general counsel to come up with the wording that would embrace that philosophy, and obviously that wasn’t done.”

Williams was reluctant to point fingers at specific DART staff members, but the agency’s general counsel is Hyattye O. Simmons. Simmons is also one of the attorneys who drafted a motion opposing a transgender bus driver’s gender-marker change in family court last year.  The motion and other alleged discrimination against the transgender bus driver led to the proposal to add gender identity to the nondiscrimination policy.

“Now that I”m aware of it and now that other members who supported the policy change are aware, we’re going to have to go back and have language put in that embraces our philosophy, and it’s apparent that we might have to have an attorney we can trust who will put that in,” Williams said.

“It’s sad that now you’ve got to depend on outside attorneys to be brought in to the process,” he added. “Right now, everyone who voted for it is probably as shocked and disappointed as I am. I’ve lost a lot of confidence right now — and trust.”

To read my full story on the trans protections, go here.

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