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Will Study Screening Other City Employees : Bellflower Council Agrees to Undergo Drug Testing

August 28, 1986|RITA PYRILLIS | Times Staff Writer

BELLFLOWER — Council members agreed this week that they should be the first city employees to be tested for drugs, but the testing will be voluntary and the results secret.

The resolution requires that all prospective employees pass a drug test before being hired, but it does not mention current employees other than the five-member council.

"It's not as strong as I would have liked it to be, but it's definitely a step in the right direction," said Councilman Mike Brassard, who first introduced the idea two weeks ago.

Brassard said he wished the resolution, which was unanimously passed by the council Monday night, had gone further. He said he still wants mandatory testing before any city employee receives a promotion.

City Atty. Maurice O'Shea said he needs more time to study legal problems involved in testing current employees. After that study, he said, he will come back with recommendations on the feasibility of expanding the tests.

"Right now I am just trying to find out the entire . . . situation, so it's going slowly," O'Shea said. "I know there are other cities that are looking into similar programs, so my next step will be to contact other city attorneys and get their input."

Similar Move in Los Angeles

A Los Angeles City Council committee took a similar stance this week, deciding it needs more information before taking action on a drug-testing policy for its employees.

The Bellflower resolution gives city administrator Jack Simpson the go-ahead to look for a firm to conduct the drug testing, which would be done by urinalysis or blood testing. Council members' test results would remain confidential, but according to O'Shea, the councilmen could waive that right.

No other city councils in the Southeast area have taken steps toward tests for elected officials, but Paramount and Lakewood have been testing prospective employees for more than a year. Lakewood has also been testing current employees making job changes.

On Aug. 4 President Reagan began a crusade against drugs by pledging that he and has cabinet would be among the first government employees to undergo drug testing. The next day the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to undergo voluntary drug testing in an effort to launch a drug-testing program for county employees.

Bellflower councilmen said they were following President Reagan's lead. "This is really preliminary, but it's the first step in following the President's example," said Mayor Joseph Cvetko.

Idea Greeted With Surprise

Councilman Ken Cleveland, who expressed surprise when Brassard first introduced the drug-testing proposal, said the council supports the program.

"I was surprised at first, but I think we all support it 100%," Cleveland said.

Lakewood's drug-testing program for new and current employees has been operated since July, 1985, when it was approved jointly by the Lakewood Employees Assn. and the city.

"There was not a lot of hoopla surrounding our decision to do this," said City Manager Howard Chambers. "There was interest on the part of city management in a program and also among city employees who were concerned about the safety of employees who work with dangerous machinery. So we got together on it and came up with this program."

Since the program began, 30% of all job applicants have failed the urinalysis test, which is administered twice, according to Chambers.

"I'm not sure how you would measure the success of a program like this, but I know it has definitely increased drug abuse awareness among employees," he said.

Two Tests Given

The city also requires that current employees up for promotion or job change within the city also undergo testing. If an employee fails both urine tests, he or she is referred to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at either Kaiser Permanente or Doctor's Hospital in Lakewood, Chambers said.

A decision on whether the person should be denied a promotion would be handled on a case by case basis, according to Don Waldie, a public information officer.

"We haven't had any instances where a current employee has failed the test, so we've never had to deal with it," Waldie explained. "But if that should happen we would look at the circumsances surrounding each case and decide what is the best option."

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