Gary Fitzsimmons on DP benefits: ‘I don’t believe our community should expect anything less’

Posted on 26 Aug 2011 at 10:07am
District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons

In today’s print edition we have a story about Parkland hospital’s decision to begin offering domestic partner benefits — and Dallas County’s decision not to. In the story we quoted openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who criticized the Commissioners Court for failing to adequately study the cost of DP benefits before opting not to offer them due to the budget shortfall. Below is the full text of an email Fitzsimmons sent me about the issue:

It is certainly gratifying that the Parkland Board of Managers has included DP benefits to cover LGBT employees. They join the most progressive public and private institutions in Dallas County in providing such benefits.

I asked former County Judge Jim Foster, a gay man, to direct Dallas County HR and the Budget Office to begin studying this issue and analyzing costs for such an initiative back in 2007.  I was hoping that this information would be available to the new members of the court who took office in January 2011.  Unfortunately, Mr. Foster failed to do so.

I visited with the new members of the court in January of this year and made the same request. It is therefore disappointing to me to find out that the court has not yet directed county staff to study this issue in a systematic way.  The figures provided by the Dallas County public liaison were prepared “off-the-cuff” in response to an inquiry from the Dallas Voice.  This is totally unacceptable.

This issued, because it does involve the potential expenditure of funds, should be studied and analyzed. County staff should prepare a report based on a review of the financial impact encumbered by other jurisdictions and private corporations that provide DP benefits.

I understand that there might not be a majority vote at this moment among members of the court; however, we will never get one as long as the court is not provided sufficient information to make an informed decision.

Amending the Dallas County civil service statute to include protection for LGBT employees is great and admirable. But of course it is largely symbolic and it has little potential financial impact. Supporting an initiative that would have a financial impact in order to bring equality to the Dallas County workplace is where the rubber meets the road. I don’t believe our community should expect anything less.

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