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Sunnyside City Council OK's wide ranging random drug testing program

The Sunnyside City Council last night passed an ordinance adopting a formal drug testing program. Affected are council members, themselves, as well as those serving on city boards and commissions, and all management and non-represented employees, full-time or part-time.

City Manager Bob Stockwell told the council the city has been trying to work in random drug testing in its collective bargaining agreements with unions. Upon acceptance by the unions, the city agreed to voluntarily implement its own program.

"We're sending a message to the entire community," Stockwell said. "We're a drug free community and we are setting the example by all of us being subjected to this."

The random drug testing program will be similar to the one the Washington State Department of Transportation uses with its CDL holders. Stockwell told the council if a test is positive, there will always be a re-test and then always an appeal.

"It's a standard, well-proven process," Stockwell added.

Councilwoman Carol Stone voiced some concerns about the drug testing. She said she had never had to deal with drug testing and didn't know what was required. She said she was concerned with false positives and wanted to know what types of drugs would be tested for.

She went on to say she was concerned with the expense the city would incur in calling for random drug tests. Stone also wanted to know why commission and board members would be automatically removed from their posts if testing positive for an illegal drug, but why city employees would go through a disciplinary procedure.

"I don't understand the distinction," she said. "I would feel more comfortable if this was pulled until we had some more answers."

Stone was told a city employee would be fired immediately after a positive drug test. Stockwell told Stone the drugs being tested for were those that have been found illegal in our society.

Councilman Jim Restucci told Stone he had been involved with drug testing in his 20 years of military service and vouched for the accuracy of the tests.

Stone said she didn't realize a positive test would be re-tested.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock addressed Stone's cost concerns. She explained that if the driver of an ambulance or a police officer in a patrol car was impaired because of an illegal drug and they caused injury or damage the price would be enormous.

"One serious injury can pay for the drug testing for the next 20 years," Councilman Bruce Epps said. "It's simple."

The new ordinance allows city employees to seek help from the city if they have a problem with drugs.

An elected council person testing positive for drugs would be subject to censure by the board, public disclosure of the positive drug test and then Stockwell said it would be up to the voters to decide what to do come election time.

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