LEWISTON — A proposed diversity, equity and inclusion policy for current and prospective employees turned into a tense debate Tuesday, with the City Council ultimately tabling the item indefinitely.

Melissa Hue, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the city, said the policy, building off Lewiston’s existing personnel and ethics policy, is meant as a proactive measure to establish a code of conduct and set expectations for how employees will be treated and how they treat others.

While several councilors said the language was overdue and sets a clear standard of treatment, a majority of the council said it raises too many questions, and opted to table a vote until their questions could be addressed.

Councilor Lee Clement, among others, argued that the policy was redundant and that the issues it addresses, like non-discrimination in hiring, already exist in state and federal law.

Hue said that while that’s true, the current policies are reactionary, and that Lewiston’s policy would be a way to “mitigate issues,” like potential discrimination lawsuits, before they arise.

She said that while Lewiston has come a long way, there is still work to do. She said the city has been able to mitigate several recent potential lawsuits related to bias, harassment or discrimination, but said there are still instances of employees using racial slurs. New training for staff and new employees is designed to help.


Councilor Rick Lachapelle said he had several concerns with the policy, listing off several questions for Hue. One of them was over the content of the staff training conducted by Hue.

At different times, Clement and Lachapelle referenced their previous draft resolution regarding optional affinity groups for school employees.

Lachapelle said the language reads like the city is looking to fill “quotas,” which Hue responded is false.

Ultimately, councilors Clement, Lachapelle, Laurier Pease and Robert McCarthy voted to table the policy, with Clement arguing that the council should have discussed the policy in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilors Scott Harriman, Stephanie Gelinas and Linda Scott supported the policy.

Gelinas encouraged her fellow councilors to “think about diversity in different ways,” outside of skin color.


“We can get hung up on a lot of this, but I don’t think its that complicated,” she said.

Harriman said it lays out “basic things we should be doing,” and that it’s an important component in today’s labor market to “make sure we’re competitive.”

Scott said as a French descendent, she knows what people have faced in Lewiston.

“We need something like this, we need to continue this work,” she said. “This is not something that’s just going away.”

Pease said given the existing rules and that the city is already conducting staff training, he sees it as “a little bit of a waste of time.”

“We’ve been doing this for years,” he said.


Hue, who was hired last year as the city’s first DEI director, said, “I don’t think this position is to do things we’ve been doing for years.”

After the vote was officially tabled, Mayor Carl Sheline, who supports the policy, said, “If we were a table at a job fair, they all just went somewhere else.”

Lachapelle immediately responded, saying he took offense to Sheline’s “sly remarks” made out of order.

“I just want more information,” he said.

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