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Chatham citizens show little interest in a County Human Relations Committee

Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - In the July 16 Chatham County Commission work session the interest and need for a county Human Relations committee was discussed. After a mass resignation of former committee members, there has been little interest by citizens to revive the dormant committee. Commissioner Kost stated that the committee faced issues that were very technical in nature. However, she failed to provide any specifics supporting this assertion. Chairman Bock stated that in looking at their bylaws, he saw nothing that was investigative or technical in nature. It was all liaison or education.

Below are notes about the topic from the minutes of the commission work session:

Chairman Bock stated that the Board would discuss for clarification some of the advisory boards. He stated that members of the Human Relations Committee resigned last year; vacancies have been advertised multiple times; one or two citizens have applied; and the Board of Commissioners will decide where they are going with that committee.

The Deputy Clerk stated that copies of applications from 2011-2012, including the bylaws, were distributed to the Board.

Commissioner Kost stated that she remembered the vacancies being advertised late last summer. She asked if they had been advertised since that time.

The Deputy Clerk stated that they were advertised the last time in late October.

Chairman Bock clarified the question, “If no one has applied or if we haven’t nominated anyone or appointed anyone, what are we doing with the committee?”

Commissioner Kost stated, yes; however, she realizes without staff support, it is very difficult for this committee to do the work that the Board expects. She stated it was hard for her to recommend someone into a position in which that she feels that it would be difficult for them to serve. She stated that she had not tried to recruit individuals to serve on this board not knowing the Board of Commissioners’ intentions were.

Commissioner Cross agreed with Commissioner Kost stating that he was an earlier liaison to the board; it was basically without staff support; there was little that could get done; at the same time, and there was a discussion of having a staff director.

Commissioner Petty stated that he has spoken with two different people, one of which is retired from the school system; they expressed some interest, but did not follow through by filling out the application; and he is not seeing a lot of strong support or commitment in the committee.

Chairman Bock asked if the Board wanted to suspend the committee for now and revisit it at a later date.

Commissioner Stewart asked, without staff support, is it the nature of the committee and charges that they have which is basically making it impossible to have this committee without staff support. She asked if all committees have staff support.

Commissioner Kost stated that she feels this committee is different because they are dealing with issues of civil rights, legalities, and working with various other state agencies. It is highly technical and she feels it would be asking too much of volunteers to do it as it is a staff role rather than a volunteer role.

Chairman Bock stated that in looking through the duties, it seems that most is not very technical as it sounds more like a liaison.

Commissioner Kost stated that if a citizen comes with a complaint to an advisory board of the County, they are expecting something to be done with it as it is a vehicle through which a citizen can convey concerns. She stated that she does see it as highly technical and does not agree that it is just an advisory board.

Chairman Bock asked if they were being asked to solve the issue or be a liaison. He asked if there was not another organization at the State level which is designed to handle those types of issues.

Commissioner Stewart asked if they could be referred to the proper place where their issues could be handled or even brought back to the Board.

Chairman Bock stated that if there was no one applying to be on the committee, it is a bigger issue. If there is no one on the committee, he doesn’t know if there is much more that can be done by the Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Stewart asked how many serve on the committee.

Chairman Bock stated that according to the bylaws, he thought it was twelve members.

Commissioner Petty voiced concern with regard to the committee getting so large that they tend to lose focus and not get things done. He suggested scaling the committee down if they decide to keep it.

Commissioner Stewart asked if the two that have applied are still interested and if they could help recruit members.

Commissioner Petty asked what the Board of Commissioners could do with regard to issues that might be brought to them by this committee other than direct them to another department.

Commissioner Kost stated that they could raise awareness stating that the education component of this is huge. These are the types of issues that are shoved out-of-view.

Commissioner Stewart concurred that education is very important. She asked what is happening with issues that are occurring now.

Commissioner Petty stated that training classes are being offered by the Board of Health related to health.

Chairman Bock stated that he was looking for the technical part.

Commissioner Kost stated that the entire issue of employment law, housing, etc. are very technical in nature.

Commissioner Stewart asked if the committee would be addressing the issues and making decisions from a legal standpoint regarding the law.

Commissioner Petty stated that it would be more of a facilitator-type position as there would not be a lot they could do except refer them.

The County Manager explained that education is also carried out through the Leadership Academy with orientation and training. With technical expertise, if everything is going to be an internal investigation of a potential complaint, it could be any number of things and staff would be necessary; however, if it is more of a liaison of making contacts, it would be a different level of work.

Commissioner Stewart stated that she felt there would be value in having a liaison or group that people could go to get help to bring the issues forward.

Chairman Bock stated that in looking at their bylaws, he saw nothing that was investigative or technical in nature. It was all liaison or education.

Commissioner Petty stated that if the County employees in the different departments are having training with regard to dealing with these types of issues, why could every employee in every department not be a means to work back through the system.

The County Manager stated that they could be County employee ambassadors; however, in his view, the vast majority of the things that would come in would be external to Chatham County local government and would be things going on out in the community. He stated that he had not received any complaints so he is unaware of anything specific from which to give an example. It could range from someone from Cary to someone in Staley.

Commissioner Stewart asked who would hear about the complaints.

The County Manager stated that they would generally be specific to the department.

Chairman Bock reiterated that this still did not address the issue of no one applying to serve on the board. He stated that he didn’t know that they could do anything since they did not have anyone who really wants to serve on the board.

Commissioner Petty suggested that it be tabled until there is more time to respond.

Commissioner Stewart suggested asking those who have applied if they are still interested.

Commissioner Kost stated that she would like to hear what the Board of Commissioners would like to do.

Chairman Bock stated that he doesn’t think there are enough people interested to constitute the commission.

Commissioner Kost suggested that the committee be advertised one more time and see what happens.

Commissioner Stewart reiterated returning to those who have applied to see if they are interested. She stated that she felt the committee might need to be on a smaller scale, but she felt it would be better than totally eliminating it altogether.

Commissioner Kost asked that the information be shared with Paul Richardson, an applicant, who may also have some ideas.

 
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Chatham citizens show little interest in a County Human Relations Committee
One or two people have expressed any interest in filling the empty seats on the county human relations committee.
 
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