Pubdate: Thu, 01 Aug 2002
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2002 St. Petersburg Times
Section: Hernando Edition
Author: Debbie Grech, Spring Hill


Editor: Is there any government agency responsible for overseeing our
Sheriff's Office? Who makes the rules it follows in its hiring
procedures? Does it have a manual of policy and procedures? Or does it
just change the rules, depending on the mood of the day?

I recently applied for employment and attended an applicant
orientation meeting to become a 911 operator. This is a position I
have been interested in for a very long time, and I was very glad to
have the opportunity to test and be interviewed for the job. After the
meeting, applicants were asked to fill out an "Application to
Observe," which is the next step in the hiring procedure. We were
advised to be "absolutely honest" in our answers because "falsifying
the application" in any way was grounds for "immediate dismissal."

One question on the application asked us to list "any drugs ever used,
what kind, when and how often." Being completely upfront and honest, I
wrote that I had tried marijuana twice in 1973, and two other drugs,
once each, in 1980 or '81. I added that this happened when I was in my
late teens and early 20s, growing up in New York. I also stated that
since I "did not like the way they made me feel," I had no urge to use
them again.

Imagine my surprise when I received a call the next day telling me
that my application was being denied, due to "prior drug history."
History? Usage of any drug on a one-time basis does not make a person
a junkie or an addict.

I would venture to guess that the majority of people my age who grew
up during the '60s, '70s and '80s have experimented with not only
marijuana, but probably cocaine, acid, LSD and more. And many of those
people continued using these drugs for years.

I wonder how many employees of the Sheriff's Office relax on their
days off by having a beer or two?

Why am I being penalized for something I sampled more than 20 years
ago? I am 47 years old and the married mother of two young boys. I
have a solid work background spanning more than 25 years. I am
currently doing volunteer work with the Hernando court system, and I
have never been in trouble with the law. I do not smoke cigarettes,
drink alcohol or do any illegal drugs of any kind.

If I was turned down for the job due to failure to pass my interview
or any testing, I could understand. But to deny me the opportunity to
compete for this position for the reasons I was given is blatantly
harsh, unfair and discriminatory.

Debbie Grech, Spring Hill
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