Phoenix orders review of city discrimination investigations

The City of Phoenix has hired an outside law firm to independently review how it handles discrimination investigations after concerns were raised by labor unions and community members.

The Equal Opportunity Department (EOD) investigates discrimination throughout Phoenix and is responsible for claims made inside city government and private business.

EOD has struggled to manage a growing caseload in recent years, causing a backlog of investigations, officials said. However, the backlog is lessening due to the city hiring extra investigators.

“Over the past 24 months, the Equal Opportunity Department Director has identified the employment investigation process as an area of improvement,” according to a statement from a city spokesman.

The statement continued, “Coincidentally, one of our labor unions, along with some community members, expressed concern without our process including the length of time it takes to conclude an investigation.”

The city has received 812 complaints in the past four years. In April, 150 of those cases were still active with nearly one-third of them open for longer than seven months.

The outside review was launched in June and is being handled by attorney Laura Lawless Robertson with the firm Squire Patton Boggs.

So far, the city said the review has cost $5,000, but that total will rise.

In an email, Robertson confirmed to ABC15 that she was retained by the city and referred other questions to Phoenix officials.

The outside review adds to other concerns facing EOD.

Earlier this month, ABC15 revealed the city was conducting a separate investigation into allegations that a fake interview was inserted into a police officer’s discrimination case.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com.

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