Politics & Government

Lexington council orders investigation of remarks about garbage truck drivers

Lexington's Urban County Council voted at its meeting Thursday to launch an investigation of a city employee's remarks about drivers of city garbage trucks.

The remarks were made April 19 at a meeting of council's Environmental Quality Committee after a committee member asked how the drivers were responding to training in how to use global positioning devices being installed in the trucks, said Jeff Jones, civil service representative of the Division of Solid Waste.

Jones told council that Richard Miller, one of the GPS instructors, told the committee that when he had drivers in groups of 12 or more they were "hostile," but in groups of three or four, "They're puppy dogs."

Jones said Miller then made the statement, "We have three that are illiterate."

"That offends me, because if we do have some that are illiterate, it's not everybody's business," Jones told council and Mayor Jim Gray.

"We are very offended and very upset," Jones said. "I'm asking you, Mr. Gray, and this council, someone give us an apology."

About two dozen garbage truck drivers were in the audience supporting Jones.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub said Miller is a contract employee for the Division of Waste Management.

Gray praised Jones for his courage in coming forward to speak about the incident.

"Having been a member of a minority community myself, and having experienced remarks perceived to be disparaging or depreciating, it can hurt us," Gray said. Gray is gay, and has publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation. Many of the city's garbage truck drivers are African-American.

"On the part of my administration, I will apologize, and I hope it will be accepted," Gray said. Several council members also apologized, including council member Tom Blues, chairman of the Environmental Quality Committee.

Steve Feese, director of the Division of Waste Management, said that on Friday there would be a meeting of the drivers before they headed out on their routes. A video of Miller's remarks would be played. Cheryl Taylor, Commissioner of Public Works and Environmental Quality, said Miller would apologize at the meeting.

On a motion by 1st District Councilman Chris Ford, council went into closed session to discuss possible disciplinary action or termination of personnel. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton then moved that the administration investigate the incident. Law commissioner Janet Graham said she would report at council's next meeting, in two weeks.