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Leggett, Andrews Call for Boost in Hiring People with Disabilties

Councilman says county law blocks people with serious disabilities from some county posts.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Thursday proposed a county charter amendment calling for the development of a program for hiring people with disabilities.

Leggett (D) urged the County Council to put the amendment before voters in November.

"In grossly disproportionate rates, individuals with disabilities cannot find 'work' in Montgomery County. It is for this reason that this charter amendment is critical," Leggett said in the statement.

Earlier this week, County Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg urged his Council colleagues to place on the ballot an amendment that would create a "special hiring authority" within the county's merit system. The authority would recruit and hire people with significant physical or cognitive disabilities for county jobs. 

“In order to help reduce the high unemployment and underemployment rate for people with disabilities, Montgomery County has taken a number of important steps to expand opportunities and be a model employer. Now, we have to take this next step,” Andrews said in a statement

In 2010, the Council approved legislation giving hiring preference to veterans and people with disabilities who are applying for an initial position in county government and are among the most highly-rated applicants. The county also provides internships of up to two years in the health and human services department for people with significant cognitive and developmental disabilities.

Leggett said the county needs something similar to a federal government program, established by executive order in 2010, "which mandated significantly increased employment representation and other proactive employment measures for individuals with disabilities in federal government."

The federal system provides greater flexibility than the county's merit system in hiring people with significant disabilities, Andrews said.

The Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight recommended a change in a 2008 report that offered four ideas for how to hire people with disabilities. One of the ideas was to “explicitly discuss and decide whether to pursue a charter amendment to enable the county government to establish a special hiring authority within the merit system for hiring persons with disabilities.”

The Charter Review Commission, a bipartisan group appointed to study the county charter, did not recommend amending the charter in 2009. Last year, a newly-appointed commission indicated that they also would not recommend amending the charter, according to the council’s legislative office.

A public hearing on a potential charter amendment is scheduled for June 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Stella B. Werner Council Office Building in Rockville. 

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