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Tustin OKs Drug Tests for All Job Applicants

September 03, 1986|LORENA OROPEZA | Times Staff Writer

The Tustin City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to require drug tests for all applicants for city jobs.

Meeting in closed session, council members rejected Mayor Donald J. Saltarelli's additional proposals for mandatory lie-detector tests and background checks after receiving advice from the city attorney that such measures could lead to costly lawsuits.

The program adopted Tuesday night excludes current city employees unless there is "probable cause" to suspect drug abuse--a traffic accident, for example. Municipal employees in this city of 41,000 already had stated their opposition to drug tests in newspaper interviews, but none spoke against the program at Tuesday's council session.

Other cities, including Santa Ana and Newport Beach, have considered mandatory drug tests for city employees but have not adopted them.

Council members said they hoped the new testing program would help protect Tustin from lawsuits filed by citizens who might be injured through employee drug abuse. However, they acknowledged that there is no evidence of drug problems among city employees.

The number of people who annually seek city jobs in Tustin was not immediately available, nor was the size of the city work force.

"The council has not been and is not on a witch hunt for employees that take drugs during their private time," Saltarelli said after the vote Tuesday night.

"The intent of the program is not to cause people to lose their jobs but to help people who need help," Councilman Ronald B. Hoesterey said.

Saltarelli said he was disappointed that the council did not approve the entire screening program he had outlined last month, which included background checks on new employees and mandatory polygraph examinations.

Saltarelli said those components of the program were dropped, "based on legal advice" from City Atty. James G. Rourke.

Rourke had sent a confidential memo to council members and the city manager warning them about potential civil rights lawsuits.

'Getting in Uncharted Waters

"I felt they were getting too many things rolled up in one ball," Rourke said after Tuesday's meeting. "There have been few cases to say what you can do and what you can't do. They're kind of getting in uncharted waters."

Councilman Richard B. Edgar said, "It is important to repeat (that) to our knowledge there is no drug problem in Tustin."

Times staff writer Andy Rose contributed to this story.

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