LEWISTON — The City Council has put off discussion on a proposed diversity, equity and inclusion policy until at least next year after already killing an earlier version of the policy this year.

Melissa Hue, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the city, has said the policy, building off Lewiston’s 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.

When the council indefinitely tabled the first version of the policy in June, several councilors questioned its necessity and said they had several concerns over how the policy would be enforced. During a workshop last week, some councilors said many of those questions had still not been answered, but did not elaborate.

Others called it a “delay tactic.”

According to a council memo from Hue, the policy “summarizes principles that demonstrates the city of Lewiston’s DEI values and establishes a set of specific standards” based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that will be used as a guide for city employees and elected officials.

The policy would also require all employees to attend and complete annual diversity awareness training.


It took roughly 15 minutes during the allotted workshop time for the council to even begin discussing the merits of the policy,” which Councilor Linda Scott said was “embarrassing.” Councilors Lee Clement and Rick Lachapelle questioned staff about why the policy had returned for consideration after being effectively killed in June, but city administration said the policy had been amended significantly.

Both Lachapelle and Clement were behind a controversial draft resolution this spring that condemned optional affinity groups in Lewiston schools, including one for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) educators. The updated policy presented last week had removed mention of such affinity groups.

Proposed new diversity, equity and inclusion policy by sunjournal on Scribd

Staff and some councilors pointed out that the workshop was scheduled in order to address councilors’ questions. Hue said the updated policy was more concise and intentional, adding that “if we do this work correctly,” there would be no need for affinity groups.

During the initial discussion in June, Hue said the city has been able to mitigate several potential lawsuits related to bias, harassment or discrimination, but said there were still instances of employees using racial slurs.

During public comment, former Councilor Luke Jensen told the council that its debate over whether to discuss a workshop item that was on the agenda was “embarrassing,” and said the council needs to do a better job supporting DEI policies.


Regarding the debate over affinity groups, Jensen offered an example. He asked councilors that if a group of combat veterans who had experienced trauma wanted a place to talk to each other “but not with other people who weren’t there, would you guys say that they are excluding people, or that they’re being anti-anyone who’s not a combat veteran?”

“No, you’d probably say they went through a tough experience, they want to feel comfortable talking about it and they can only do so with each other. So, why don’t you see that with people of color?” he said. “They don’t go through the same experience that someone like me does.”

Councilor Stephanie Gelinas said “a policy like this is really important for the city. A statement is one thing but a policy is another.”

Councilor Larry Pease told staff that he’d like to see another council workshop on the issue, “then go from there.” Several others agreed.

Lachapelle suggested the council take it up after the first of the year, and “have a more in-depth discussion.”

On Monday, City Administrator Heather Hunter said that “after the first of the year I will confer with council again for direction.”


During the meeting, Councilor Scott Harriman questioned why “we keep pushing it, kicking the can down the road.”

“We had a workshop tonight where people could ask questions,” he said.

Following the meeting, Mayor Carl Sheline said it was “incredibly troubling that some councilors had concerns about even having Director Hue speak during the workshop.”

“Their resistance to the discussion speaks volumes about their regard for diversity, equity and inclusion work done at the city and will likely make an already difficult recruitment environment that much more difficult,” he said. “We live in one of the most diverse and youngest cities in Maine and I’m worried that city government is looking more and more out of touch.”

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