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City employees to undergo cultural sensitivity & bias training following comment

NBC 24's Toi Creel speaks about Comments made by a city employee..

TOLEDO, OHIO (WNWO)— A comment made during a City Council meeting has resulted in a mandatory cultural sensitivity and bias training for all employees.

“Basketball is considered to be a sport that draws... I don’t know how to say it… but it draws a crowd that's not worthy of the park," city employee Joe Franckhauser in a Tuesday night Toledo city council meeting.

Several responded immediately to the comment, including Councilman Larry Sykes.

“[Saying it draws individuals that are undesirable or individuals that are rowdy...it just breaks my heart,” said Sykes.

The comment stemmed from a discussion about the Joe E Brown Park in north Toledo. It was closed in 2015 as part of the Toledo Waterways Initiative. Council was discussing forming an advisory board for the park.

When asking about renovations, basketball was not on the list.

“It was an irresponsible comment and it did come off as racist,” said Toledo resident Ivory Howard. “Not everybody is going to deface your basketball court, litter, shoot up the place.”

Councilman Tom Waniewski came to the defense of the city employee by saying it's a complaint he's often heard and that the employee was put on the spot.

“He was conveying what the community said and what the consultants were saying. He just wasn't saying it properly.”

Emma Wilburn lives just feet away from the Park and says anyone who wants to get into trouble won't be limited to a court, saying she sees gangs in her neighborhood sometimes sitting in houses.

The city employee has since apologized.

Council will meet again to discuss the park March 13th.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz issuing the following statement in response:

Statements made by a city employee to Toledo City Council yesterday regarding basketball courts at Joe E. Brown Park do not reflect my views and beliefs or the views and beliefs of my administration. He made comments he heard at some point, years before I was mayor, about the Joe E. Brown Park project and basketball courts. As I said [Tuesday], public spaces like parks are to be enjoyed by all members of the community. Whether he was articulating his own opinion or attempting to summarize some misguided opinions of others, he does not have the power to set policy of the administration.
I was very disappointed when I listened to what he said to council.It is our job to make sure we work with all city employees to make sure we develop an atmosphere that ensures those types of attitudes are neither condoned nor reflected in anything we do.Mr. Franckhauser was verbally counseled by the director of public utilities first thing this morning. He asked on his own this morning to send a letter of apology to council.

Franckhauser will also receive the cultural sensitivity & bias training. It will also be administered to city employees reporting to the directors and employees.

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