To make it easier for individuals to report instances of bias or discrimination involving Bexley city employees, Mayor Ben Kessler has appointed two complaint liaisons who will work as third-party consultants to provide assistance to individuals filing complaints.
"The complaint process can apply to anything, but the target here is anything that would have to do with bias or discrimination and create a comfortable environment where they can report it," Kessler said.
During Bexley City Council's Aug. 11 meeting, Kessler announced the appointments of attorneys Sam Marcellino and Mary Younger as the complaint liaisons.
"It was important to me that I choose people with life experiences and backgrounds and perspectives that would help them understand the victim of bias or discrimination," Kessler said.
Marcellino, an African American and a Bexley resident, is an associate at the Columbus law firm of Barkan Meizlish. He serves on the city's charter-review commission and is a member of the Ohio Association of Justice, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of individuals injured on the job.
Younger, a German Village resident, worked as an attorney with the Franklin County Public Defender's Office for the past 36 years before retiring earlier this month. Her work included negotiating charges with police departments and prosecutors throughout central Ohio.
Younger said she has become familiar with Bexley since her son and his wife moved there in March. She said she has a particular perspective on race because she is white and her husband, who is African American, was a police officer with the Ohio State University for 34 years.
"I'd like to make things just a little bit better for people of color, for people of different religions because I've lived it with my family," Younger said. "I've had contact with police officers throughout my entire career, and I know that there are excellent police offers because (my husband) introduced me to many, and he was one. But the one bad one can really do a lot of damage, and that is why I like this complaint-liaison (position) because I think it's an important job."
Marcellino said he is a 2005 Bexley High School graduate and now lives in south Bexley with his wife. He said he became interested in the complaint-liaison position because of an experience when he was attending college in another city.
"I had a problem with the way I was treated as a person of color, and I was detained. My options were to complain to the chief of police of that city, and it was a large city," he said. "I just felt under-represented. I didn't feel that I had anyone to reach out to. I felt alone."
Since living in Bexley, Marcellino said, he has had positive interactions with the police.
"But I want to make sure that if somebody doesn't have that experience, they have someone to reach out to personally. And that is what has really drawn me toward this position and my interest in carrying it out," he said. "I'm looking forward to hopefully being a strong liaison for those with the system and hopefully helping them out through the process. Sometimes when you feel alone, it's the darkest place to be, and I don't want people to feel that way here. We need people to make sure they don't."
Kessler said the complaint liaisons would assist residents who file grievances about police officers, code-enforcement officers or other city employees and follow up on complaint forms that are filed through the city's website: bexley.org. He said the complaint liaisons would complement the work of the citizen-review advisory board the city had established in June.
According to Kessler's executive order, "The Bexley Citizen Review Advisory Board is charged with reviewing complaints pertaining to unlawful discrimination or bias directed by city employees that are under appeal to the mayor." The three residents Kessler appointed to that board are Grandon Avenue resident Bryan Drewry, Bullitt Park Place resident Becky Guzman and South Remington Road resident Lee Nathans.
For more information, go to bexley.org/citizen-review/.