Wood River amends drug testing policy after threat of lawsuit
Wood River Township has revised an ordinance requiring all general assistance fund recipients to undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing in the wake of a threatened lawsuit from a woman who had been denied assistance.
Township Supervisor Mike Babcock told the Metro East Sun that the city updated the policy at its June 27 meeting to allow recipients of the program to satisfy the requirements without actually undergoing testing.
“The updated ordinance allows individuals to use an affidavit from a police officer stipulating they are not on any drugs or one from two reliable sources saying the same thing,” he said.
Those applying for the program also have the option of enrolling in a drug rehab program to satisfy the requirement.
Babcock received a letter in mid-May from the attorneys of Kimberly Albrecht outlining their objections to the ordinance that allowed for the denial of anyone found to be using drugs or alcohol. Albrecht’s application for general assistance funding had been rejected by the township, but Babock said the decision was not solely based on her refusal to submit to drug testing.
“She didn’t qualify for other factors,” he said.
The attorneys called the policy a violation of the 14th Amendment, arguing that it would allow for “warrantless, suspicionless searches.”
Babcock said that at the time, a five-member panel was in the process of figuring out what would be considered an acceptable source of authority for those who elected to submit an affidavit.
He said the threat of a lawsuit was a concern, especially since Wood River Township has managed its finances for seven years without any tax changes.
“We’ve monitored offices for efficiencies and identified the problems,” he said. “We found one office to be cheating on their time and cut their budget. We’ve revised and reviewed other programs that have also led to savings. I personally have monitored every bill out the door to make sure services rendered were paid for at the price that was bid for them.”
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