The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found that the bicounty agency responsible for parks, recreation and planning in Prince George's and Montgomery counties has not met the goals for hiring minorities and women set under a 1977 agreement.
The EEOC, in a recently-drafted proposal obtained by The Washington Post, asked the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to agree to hire or promote one minority employe for every non-minority person hired or promoted in the 1,200-employe agency. The proposed extension of the 1977 agreement, which expired in August, also would require the commission to fill with women 50 percent of all new positions and promotions in two "nontraditional" jobs -- Park Police and skilled crafts.
The agreement also would force the agency to keep vacancies and promotion slots open until qualified minorities or women are found to fill them.
The Montgomery County Parks Department still has no minority or female "administrators or officials," as the EEOC calls upper-level managers. In 1974, that department had no minorities and only three women among its 49 employes in the "professional" category, which includes planners and recreation center directors; in 1980 it has one Asian man and 10 women among 60 persons employed in that category.
William Bradley, EEOC compliance officer, said in a letter to the commission dated July 21:
"With regard to Prince George's County Planning Department, no goals have been met and in many job categories, loss of minority employment is reflected. The Montgomery County Planning Department has met one goal in the job category of technicians/paraprofessionals and in the Parks Department the largest concentration of minority employment is in the service maintenance category."
Thomas H. Countee Jr., executive director of the park and planning commission, who is black, cited a number of reasons for the failure to meet goals, including a severely limited budget and staff to recruit minorities for skilled jobs, a low rate of turnover in what has been a white-male-dominated commission, and decentralized responsibility for hiring and promotion, which he said makes it difficult to apply equal-opportunity guidelines to hiring practices.
The commission was established by the state legislature in 1927 to plan the growth and development of Montgomery County and administer its extensive park lands. In 1946 it became a bicounty agency, performing the same functions for Prince George's County.
Countee sid that in practice, the commission is really five separate entities -- a parks department and a planning department for each county joined by a central administrative services division, which he runs. Until five years ago the executive director had a great deal of control over hiring and promotion, but that authority since has been given to the individual parks and planning departments, according to Countee.
Because the administrative services division was able to meet its EEOC goals, Bradley said he felt the goals for the rest of the agency were reasonable.
The original 1977 agreement between the EEOC and the commission grew out of a 1973 suit filed by two black workers at the Meadowbrook Yard, a service maintenance yard of the Montgomery Parks Department near Silver Spring.
According to Leroy Hedgepeth, personnel and employe relations manager for the commission, the yard had seperate locker and washroom facilities for blacks and whites, and the bulletin board where job and promotion opportunities were posted was in the white-only section of the yard.
The 1977 agreement set percentages for the hiring of minorities and women in various job categories, based on the proportion of the metroplitan area's labor force each group represented. And, the goals left room for gains in some fields.
For example, only nine of the 70 protective service, or Park Police, workers were minorities, a 9 percent representation versus a goal of 28 percent. Only 22 of 137 clerical workers were nonwhite, 16 percent compared with a 26 percent goal.
The commission has experienced a high turnover rate among its minority employes, particularly in the professional ranks.
Alvin McNeal, 35, now in charge of long-range community planning for the District of Columbia, believes he was the first black planner hired by the Prince George's planning department.
"Quite frankly there was quite a bit of pressure to get minorities on board," he recalls. He said he resigned for "a couple" of reasons: "The first was the fact that I knew I was not going to get a promotion anytime soon . . . Most of the people [above him] were fairly young."
McNeal also said he felt the agency was not paying him as much as he could earn elsewhere. His salary jumped from $19,000 to $23,000 when he left the agency for the District government.
McNeal had no complaints about his treatment at the Prince George's agency but, he said, for professional blacks "if you're not at a certain level with the commission, you feel isolated. You feel that there is no one you can turn to if you have a problem."
The lack of promotion opportunities is aggravated by TRIM, the Prince George's charter amendment limiting property taxes, and by tight budgets in Montgomery.
"It's very difficult when you have neither turnover nor growth to change the composition of your staff," said Commission Chairman Royce Hanson.
"The main thing was that I was looking for some upward mobility," said Terry Brooks, who is black and a former principal designer with the Montgomery County planning department. Like McNeal, he elevated his salary and responsibilities by joining the District government.
Brooks also said he was treated well in his job with the commission. He said, however, that he filed a grievance with an independent review body at the commission when the director of planning tried to block a promotion Brooks' supervisor had recommended in 1977.Brooks, now chief of urban design with the District government, left the commission shortly after that dispute.
A recent memo from executive director Countee to Hanson noted that for 1979, a disproportionate number of black employes received a performance rating of "good," the third rating on a four-step scale, Countee concluded:
"I sincerely believe that the statistics still reflect an inequitable pattern with respect to black commission employes. Several analyses have now been conducted," wrote the Harvard Business School graduate, ". . . [and] the statistics reflect the same pattern."
The full commission will consider the EEOC's far-reaching propsal next month. Should it fail to reach a voluntary agreement with the federal agency, the EEOC could go to court and ask that the park and planning commission be ordered to follow the proposals, according to Countee, who said he forsees problems in trying to reach an agreement.
"Speaking for the commission, we find the recommendations difficult to live with," Countee said.